I am a reader. I read books. I read book reviews and I read about books. Reading books to children is golden. Perhaps it was with this in mind that when Mr. Handy revisited children’s literature when reading to his own children, he had a different perspective on what he remembered as a child. That is only logical and perhaps this is what sparked the idea for this book. I was allowed to read an advance copy of Wild Things and put everything aside to read it when it arrived.
Mr. Handy introduces this book by introducing us to the first book published specifically for children in 1690. It reads pretty much like an adult shaking a finger in a child’s face while saying: Strive to Learn. Use no ill words. Tell no lies, etc. Our children are so lucky!
Wild Things is presented chronologically, beginning with Goodnight Moon, a book he adores and which was definitely not a favorite with my children. But reading this, I learned a lot about what we missed and why we should have liked it. I thought right here, at the very start, that looking at a book written for a child and read to a child would look very different as an adult. And it was with this book that the author introduced us to how he was going to handle this book. We would be given the back story of the story and the author. We would learn a lot about the authors. I loved that. The book continues marching through time with Fairy Tales and Maurice Sendak, then Beatrix Potter and talking animals (in this, the author and I digress. I can agree with his scholarly take on why animals are book characters instead of people, but my take is much simpler. You can give a book with a boy as the main character to a girl and she will accept it but generally, you can’t give a book to a boy about a girl and expect him to read it. Even Kindergarteners will groan if you pull out a “pink” book for storytime. If an animal is the character they will all accept it. Right or not, that’s been my experience.)
I loved learning about Dr. Seuss, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books, and was very disappointed that the one book that never left me, Little Women was one he couldn’t find many good things to say about. He didn’t like it, I loved it. Again, this is probably something to do with age. When given a book as a child that makes a huge impression on you, that book means something for the rest of your life. But he acknowledges people like me in his discussion.
This book was funny, thoughtful, truly celebrates how lucky children today are to have the literature they have available to them, admonishes us to read children’s literature again for ourselves, and it was much too short. I would love a book dinner with this author. I probably couldn’t keep up with him on a scholarly level, but on the emotional level, I could. The bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.