Maria Popova on the story, art, and universal truths of this year's best books for kids. [more inside]
Julia Eccleshare knows what kids should read in order to experience an antidote to our money-fuelled world, to learn to question authority, have smart female role models, learn about feminism, get to know South Asian characters and families with same-sex parents. Which books help to feel good about wearing glasses, when one feels 'weird' or different, which make the dark less scary or would lure a 13-year-old boy away from his Xbox. She is the book doctor. [more inside]
Today marks Tove Jansson’s 100th birthday. She was a free spirited artist, painter, political cartoonist, illustrator and author who defied the conventions of her time. Earlier this year, a postage stamp and a 2-Euro coin depicting Tove Jansson have been released in celebration of her birthday. She is probably best known for creating the Moomins, a beloved children's book series that was translated in over 40 languages. Unsurprisingly, some call her the queen of the Moomins. A current London exhibition [Tales from the Nordic Archipelago] allows a glimpse into her life and shows unseen photographs from her private island in the archipelago of Finland, where she spent over 30 summers. The English translation of a new biography is due later this year. [more inside]
Animal Land where there are no people was a children's book released in 1897, written by Sybil Corbet, who was four years old, and illustrated by her mother, Katharine Corbet. "Animal Land where there are no People is quite near, only you can't see it... They live by the North Pole and in the leafy places near. It is always light there, always day, they climb the poles and always play." [more inside]
Cozy Classics are board book versions of classic novels, each story represented by 12 child-friendly words and 12 needle-felted illustrations, with the idea of developing "early literacy"—everything children know about reading and writing before they can actually do either. Current titles include Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, Les Miserables, and War and Peace, with Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist forthcoming. [more inside]
Nina Bawden, writer of novels for adults and children, born in 1925, died on 22nd August 2012. “As a child, Nina said, she had felt wicked because the children in the books she read were all so good, and she was one of the first writers for children to create characters who could be jealous, selfish and bad-tempered” (Guardian obituary). [more inside]
vintage children's books my kid loves (a blog) & scans of vintage Little Golden Books (scroll down a bit) & The Children's Object Book (1880s) & if you want to read and look at even more vintage children's books online, you could start with browsing the Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature with almost 6000 classic books (some may be unsuitable for modern sensibilities) [more inside]
Did you know James Joyce wrote a children's book (sort of)? Patricia Highsmith wrote one too. So did James Baldwin (not to be confused with James Baldwin the children's book author). Eugène Ionesco wrote four stories for young kids. Graham Greene also wrote at the very least four children's books (and possibly more). Other unlikely children's book authors are Aldous Huxley, E. E. Cummings, Chinua Achebe (2, 3, 4), Eleanor Roosevelt and Gertrude Stein. Author Ariel S. Winter has written about all these books on his excellent blog We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie. On his Flickr page you can look at scans from these books, sometimes even the whole book.
The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of children who don't go to sleep
Go the F**k to Sleep as read by Samuel L. Jackson (no really). Audible is offering it as a free download (registration required). [Go the F**k to Sleep previously]
Glee's Chris Colfer is writing a children's book. The Land of Stories, aimed at middle grade readers, will come out next year. He joins many other famous folks who have decided to write for younger readers. Perez Hilton is doing one. Madonna's done many. Even the "stars" of Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice got in on the kidlit craze. Of course, many of these authors don't actually write the books they publish. Even if/when they do, many readers find the results underwhelming. "If you are looking for the next Beatrix Potter or Maurice Sendak, you will not find it here," claimed the Guardian. There are exceptions, but it seems that for a lot of celebrities, literature for children has become merely another form of brand extension. Author, Adam Rex has countered with "An Open Letter to Everyone Who Thinks it Must be Easy, Writing Kid's Books" Or, as EB White said, "You have to write up to children, not down..."
‘Everyone is a worker.’ That is a powerful statement, if you think about it. Richard Scarry wasn’t afraid to paint contemporary American society in such bold strokes. Nor was he afraid to explain commerce and capitalism to children. - What Do People Do All Day.
Once Upon a Title - "pervy little stories made entirely from children's book titles"
A gallery of scanned German children's books from the 18th and 19th centuries. Sounds dry, but the plates are high-resolution and gorgeous. Fans of old-school engraving, illustration, and Bibliodyssey-esque curiosities will not be disappointed. Highly extensive and bandwidth-intensive.
Vintage dinosaur books. Those of a certain age likely discovered dinosaurs in the pages of one of these books in their grade-school library. I'm almost sure that this one was my first (but I remember the cover being black instead of red), and that this was my second. Does anybody remember this one? Or this?
"To really write for children, you have to think like a child. And to read a children’s book, you probably have to let go of grown-up reasoning. These thoughts occurred to me as I read two newly-translated books about Tintin and his creator, Georges Remi, better known to the world as Hergé. (The pen name is composed of Remi’s initials backwards, pronounced as in French.) There is much to be learned from these studies and others by “Tintinologists”—about Hergé, about the “world” of Tintin, even about twentieth-century politics. But as I read Pierre Assouline’s well-written biography of Hergé and Jean-Marie Apostolidès’s erudite study of the Tintin books, a version of the question we Jews love to ask kept coming to mind: Are they good for Tintin?" A review of The Metamorphoses of Tintin or Tintin for Adults by Jean-Marie Apostolides and Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline at The New Republic.
Ursula Nordstrom—the "Maxwell Perkins of the Tot Department"—was, from 1940 to 1973, head of the Department of Books for Boys and Girls at the New York publisher Harper & Row, and until 1979 had her own imprint there, Ursula Nordstrom Books. A legendary editor known to her authors as UN, she published the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Margaret Wise Brown, Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak (whom she is credited with discovering) and, to not a little controversy, E. B. White (previously). One of "the last generation of devoted letter writers," she wrote nearly 100,000 during her five decade career at Harper, of which 300 of the most amusing, acerbic, and illuminating are collected in Dear Genius by Leonard S. Marcus, the first hundred pages of which can be read at the Harper website. [more inside]
From October 1972 to October 1973 a controversy over Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory simmered in the pages of The Horn Book. It began with an article, "McLuhan, Youth, and Literature", by Eleanor Cameron, author of the Mushroom Planet series for children and of The Green and Burning Tree: On the Writing and Enjoyment of Children's Books. Spread out over the October, December, and February issues, it tied the ideas of Marshall McLuhan (The Medium is the Massage) to the confection of Charlie, calling it "one of the most tasteless books ever written for children":
"The more I think about Charlie and the character of Willy Wonka and his factory, the more I am reminded of McLuhan’s coolness, the basic nature of his observations, and the kinds of things that excite him. Certainly there are several interesting parallels between the point of view of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and McLuhan’s 'theatrical view of experience as a production or stunt,' as well as his enthusiastic conviction that every ill of mankind can easily be solved by subservience to the senses."What followed was a knock-down, drag-out, letter-writing brouhaha, refereed by Horn Book editor Paul Heins, with librarians, parents, teachers, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Roald Dahl himself joining in, and it was one of the main causes of the book's revision that year. [more inside]
It happened to Clifford. It happened to Little Bear. It happened to Harold and his Purple Crayon, and Curious George. Now, Moe Greene productions presents, Nate the Great. I don't want to begrudge my favorite children's book authors a fat paycheck, BUT... [more inside]
Neil Gaiman's latest work, The Graveyard Book, is a kind of undead Jungle Book, with a man-child being raised by various ghosts and ghouls rather than animals. He's been the whole thing a chapter at a time on each stop of his American promotional tour, and posting the videos online (and blogging about it of course), which means that with tonights reading the entire thing will be available online.
Do You Know What I'm Going To Do Next Saturday? is a Flickr set of the pages from Helen Palmer Geisel's (Dr. Seuss's first wife) now out of print children's book that gained notoreity for its depiction of children doing fun & very dangerous things like joining the marines, playing with guns & fighting American Gladiator style.
Curious George Escapes the Nazis. A true story from a neat little exhibit about the life and work of H.A. and Margret Rey, German Jews who fled Paris on bicycle (with the unpublished Curious George manuscript as one of their few possessions) hours before the Nazis arrived. Lots of info, including Curious George's first appearance, Hans' famous book on astronomy, notes on the couple's lesser-known work and more.
Colin Thompson writes and draws children's picture books. These books are a sheer joy to read, both for adults and children, as they feature an interesting storyline and fantastically detailed pictures. You can buy his prints from his site or you could take the plunge and buy this one for U$4800.
Children's Books Online: The Rosetta Project is an incredible online resource for 19th century children's books. From the site: "The Rosetta Project's collections currently contain about 2,000 antique children's books which were published in the 19th and early 20th century. We shall be putting these combined collections on line as funding permits. Our current goal of putting 2,000 volumes on line will create an online library of aproximately 65,000 html pages. However, as we are still collecting books from around the world, we expect the Rosetta Project online library to eventually reach millions of html pages." (via coudal.)
Aslan gets a makeover? (NYTimes link, reg. required, sorry.) Apparently Harper-Collins and the C.S. Lewis estate see a Harry Potter-style merchandising bonanza in the Narnian Chronicles -- if they de-emphasize that pesky Christianity, that is, and write a few more Narnia books, and produce some plush toys of the Narnian characters. I feel queasy.