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

Parents and teachers, this is for you, though I also think young adults would appreciate the chance to relive their favorite childhood picture books and the literature they read and reread as tweens and adolescents.  And readers also get to quibble about the books they were supposed to like, but never connected with.  But I am getting ahead myself!  What is this book, anyway?

Bruce Handy has written the perfect book to reconnect you to books that shaped you as a reader.  Along the way, he offers his insights, research about the books and authors, and his own idiosyncratic reactions to the books he discusses.  Sometimes I found myself cheering his humorous and very opinionated stance, to books like The Giving Tree, which I also detest.   Handy states that the book leaves him cold:  “I don’t see a wise ennobling, bittersweet parable about maternal steadfastness.  I see two deluded losers engaged in a folie a deux:  the Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo of children’s literature.”  However, when he takes on Little Women, I simply have to push back and argue for my favorite book growing up.

I don’t want to give the impression that Handy critiques all the books, far from it.  He is passionate about his reading and often compares the joy of his own reading as a child to reading the same books to his children’s.  He delves into interviews with authors like Maurice Sendak and the life and early experiences of Margaret Wise Brown.  His voice is always fresh and honest, his chapters intriguing in the categories he creates.  I guarantee you’ll be delighted, inspired, nostalgic, and at times a bit hot under the collar.  And you may just find yourself revisiting reading memories with your friends and family.  Enjoy!  And let us know what you think.


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