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Wild ThingsToday I’m thrilled to welcome two authors (and bloggers) whom I’ve admired for years, Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson. When I started blogging back in 2008 they had both been involved in the children’s literature world for years and were highly respected for their knowledge as well as their ability to find the absolute best books.  So, needless to say, when I was approached to share a post from the pair as well as feature their new book, Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, I was thrilled! Enjoy their words of wisdom now and be sure to stick around to win a copy of this incredible book for your library as well!

Mention children’s literature to even the most jaded and sophisticated adult, and you sometimes get an “awww!” in response, as if the topic immediately conjures up cute, fluffy bunnies and gumdrops alike. This response, one that generally romanticizes and sentimentalizes children’s literature, is a curious phenomenon. Part of our aim in writing Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature was to explore the edgier side of children’s books – the books themselves (we three authors are fans of more subversive books), as well the lives of those who wrote and illustrated them. (There are double agents, those who also wrote for Playboy, those who also wrote erotic fiction, and in one case, an author who killed her own mother with a table knife.) Children’s literature, indeed, has a complex and sometimes slightly dark history that most texts and histories don’t explore.

The Annotated Charlotte’s Web Peter F. NeumeyerOur original manuscript included stories about how not all of children’s literature’s most famous characters (in this case, creatures) were so well-received. In the introduction to The Annotated Charlotte’s Web, Peter F. Neumeyer discusses the books leading up to the publication of this American treasure, and one of those books is Stuart Little (1945), now widely regarded as a classic in the field and a story that came to White in a dream. Neumeyer notes how, by the end of 1946, the book had sold 100,000 copies—by 1975, it had sold half a million—and gained immense popularity, nation-wide. Except, that is, for some parents and librarians who took issue with Stuart Little’s very arrival.

Stuart LittleIt turns out that in the book’s first edition, released in October of that year, Stuart Little, the talking mouse who lives with a human family in New York, was “born.” If you pick up a copy of the book now, you will see in the opening paragraph of the first chapter that “Mrs. Frederick C. Little’s second son arrived.” Yes, cryptically arrived. The notion of a rodent springing forth from a woman’s loins was too much for some. White’s story was that, after the book’s release, New Yorker editor Harold Ross popped his head into White’s office to yell, “God damn it White, at least you could have had him adopted.”

Another of children’s literature’s most entertaining tales involves Stuart and Anne Carroll Moore, head of children’s services for the New York Public Library from the early 1900s to 1941. Moore infamously railed against some children’s books that are now considered classics, and Stuart Little was one. Thought she sent encouraging letters to E. B. White as he wrote, she was greatly disappointed in the novel once it reached readers — and made her feelings known, going as far as trying to persuade its editor to stop its publication.
Poor Stuart. He didn’t have an easy time of things, though his story remains well-read today.

What did Moore think of Charlotte’s Web, White’s second novel and the novel that many people consider the most perfect children’s novel on the planet? Well, we can’t give away all our book’s secrets, can we?

(This does leave us wondering what Moore would have thought of our book. Hmm…)


BetsyBird Julie-Danielson

Betsy Bird is the youth materials collections specialist for the New York Public Library and the author of Giant Dance Party, illustrated by Brandon Dorman. In addition to writing for The Horn Book magazine, she is the creator of the blog A Fuse #8 Production.

Julie Danielson is a regular contributor to Kirkus Reviews, and in her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, she has featured and/or interviewed hundreds of top names in picture books. Julie Danielson lives in Tennessee.

Peter D. Sieruta (1958-2012) was an author, book critic, and frequent reviewer for The Horn Book magazine. His blog, Collecting Children’s Books, served as inspiration for his contributions to Wild Things!

Wild ThingsAbout Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter Sieruta

Secret lives, scandalous turns, and some very funny surprises — these essays by leading kids’ lit bloggers take us behind the scenes of many much-loved children’s books.

Did Laura Ingalls cross paths with a band of mass murderers? Why was a Garth Williams bunny tale dubbed “integrationist propaganda”? For adults who are curious about children’s books and their creators, here are the little-known stories behind the stories. A treasure trove of information for a student, librarian, new parent, or anyone wondering about the post–Harry Potter book biz, Wild Things! draws on the combined knowledge and research of three respected and popular librarian-bloggers. Told in affectionate and lively prose, with numerous never-before-collected anecdotes, this book chronicles some of the feuds and fights, errors and secret messages found in children’s books and brings contemporary illumination to the warm-and-fuzzy bunny world we think we know.


Thanks to the wonderful people at Candlewick Press I have ONE copy of Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter Sieruta to offer one lucky There’s A Book reader! Be sure to enter using the rafflecopter form below and be aware that this one is for US and Canadian residents only.

Find Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter Sieruta at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads | ISBN10/ISBN13: 0763651508 / 9780763651503

Thank you so much to the publisher, Candlewick Press, for providing a copy of this book for review! Connect with them on Twitter, Google+ and on Facebook!
Purchasing products by clicking through the links in this post will provide us a modest commission through our various affiliate relationships.

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16 Responses to Guest Post and Giveaway with Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson, authors of Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature

  1. One of my all time favorites is Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs because it is so fun and silly. And wouldn’t it be cool if it was real…just for a day!

  2. I can’t wait to read this. We seem to do the same romanticizing about old movies too, at least in our house. What I recall as being fuzzy and adorable often turns out to be gritty and tough to watch. I’m excited to see the titles these authors present!

  3. Dana Martin says:

    It’s impossible to have just one favorite, but a picture book that has stuck with me since birth is Dorothea Warren Fox’s Miss Twiggley’s Tree. It had so many things that hooked me as a child (and still do, honestly): a huge crazy house perched in a towering willow tree, a lovable hermit and her genius dog, visiting bears, witty illustrations, and a rhyming text in which the meter actually works.

  4. Darshana says:

    Heard their interview on the Let’s Get Busy Podcast. Can’t wait to read the book. Though can I handle having my bubble of of fluffy bunnies burst … I don’t know. 🙂

  5. Jerry says:

    My favorite children’s book will always be Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. It was the only one I read that wasn’t a comic book. When the teacher read it to us, I had to get it because I couldn’t wait to know more the next day!

  6. Elsie says:

    The dark side of authors of children’s book is intriguing. Can’t wait to find out the secrets.

  7. Stacy Couch says:

    Loved Danielson and Bird on Matthew Winner’s LGBPodcast. My favorites (for today): Eloise and Harriet the Spy. Two mischief makers–just like Danielson and Bird.

  8. Danzel says:

    I can’t wait to read this book.

    I have too many favorites. My favorite for older kids is A Wrinkle in Time. It’s my favorite book ever, I think. I read it for the first time when I was ten, and I was blown away by the characters and places and ideas.

  9. anne says:

    Goodnight Moon since it is memorable, unique and wonderful.

  10. I’m a diehard Winnie the Pooh fan. I think because my father used to read it to me when I was little and his voice and our cozy snuggling on the sofa imprinted it in my consciousness.

  11. Carla Pullum says:

    I Love You, Little One
    by Nancy Tafuri
    My daughters love me to read this book!

  12. rhythm says:

    Today my favorite book is The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers. It is a delicious read!

  13. Kara says:

    One of my favorite children’s books is “Same Same but Different” by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. I love the cross-cultural sharign the main characters do, as well as the illustrations, which I can’t think of a good adjective to describe right now!

  14. Eti Berland says:

    Thanks for a fabulous blog post and promoting this amazing book! My favorite children’s book of all time would definitely have to be A Wrinkle in Time. Every time I read it I find out new things about myself 🙂

  15. My favorite book is The Princess Bride, which is more of a crossover than a true children’s book. It has something for everyone – chases, escapes, sword fights, shrieking eels, true love…dating sure was tough, once upon a time.

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