Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, by Bruce Handy (2017)

Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult, by Bruce HandyI am SO glad to discover and share this book! As a regular reader of children’s literature, I’m often fielding questions about why I read it. Assumptions about “easy lit” abound, along with dismissals of great stories because “that’s just for kids.” But those of you who share my passion for reading know how powerful a story can be, regardless of the audience. And as Handy himself writes, it can be harder for authors because kids have no patience for poor (didactic) writing, no matter how well-intentioned! Anyway, Handy is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, and this is his first book. Essentially, he is revisiting some kidlit classics reading them again as an adult, giving him an entirely new reading experience. If you ever read the Narnia series as a kid and again as an adult, you will know what I mean. I was shocked at the obvious Christian allegory that I completely missed as a 12-year-old! Handy has done meticulous research and seamlessly blends that research in his discussion of each title, recalling his own enjoyment (or not) as a child, as a parent, and as an adult reader. Handy starts with Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, and moves to picture books like Where the Wild Things Are, The Runaway Bunny, Bedtime for Frances and others, Dr. Seuss’ great easy readers like Ten Apples Up on Top and Go Dog Go through to junior fiction that includes Ramona the Pest, Little Women, Wizard of Oz, the Narnia Chronicles and more. Like all of us, Handy notes that some of his childhood faves don’t really hold up; and he is mystified by the adoration adults visit on some titles – Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin, for instance. But he has also discovered gems like Laura Ingalls’ Wilder’s Little House series – titles he dismissed as a boy as books for girls, defending his perspective now by noting that “[a] boy book would announce itself more in the vein of Big House on the Huge Prairie.” Handy is a skilled writer who delivers his informative discussion with a mix of humour, nostalgia, wonder, and appreciation for these great stories. Though he is totally off base with his dismissal of Anne of Green Gables, of course. Sheesh.
More discussion and reviews of this title: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32919295


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