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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Unexpected Jolts of Children’s Literature: Seusses and Ludwigs and Baums (oh my!)

Now that we’re done with the award announcement delights of the 2018 season, I’d say it was high time to start thinking about something completely different. And what could be more different than cases where adult books mention children’s books and children’s book creators in some way? As you may know, my day job is as the Collection Development Manager of a library system, and that means keeping up-to-date with the latest in adult publications. In my travels I ran across the following books. Keep your eyes peeled for them in the coming months! You might not know what you’ve missed otherwise:


Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones


Is it just me, or does it feel a little strange when anyone other than Phil Nel writes about Seuss? With the relatively recent death of Seuss’s wife, Audrey Geisel, I can’t be alone in wondering what’s in store for the Seuss name and brand. This particular biographer, Brian Jay Jones, has done books about Jim Henson and George Lucas in the past. It feels like a pattern (like something from the British quiz show Only Connect). Henson. Lucas. Geisel. What’s the next name in this pattern?


The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon


Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Wall Street Journal reviewer discovers the benefits of reading aloud to children!  If Gurdon’s name sounds familiar to you, it may be because she’s been in the news over the years as the WSJ‘s primary children’s book reviewer. Remember the article she wrote in 2011 about YA fiction being “too dark”? Quite the controversy, that. Time has passed and Ms. Gurdon, who has five children, has penned this book about the benefits of reading aloud. The Library Journal review says that “Gurdon advises families how to read aloud every day, providing an alphabetical list of more than 100 titles and additional suggestions divided by topics such as bedtime, kindness, fairy tales, and classics for older listeners.” Naturally, I’d like to know what’s on that list. To the library!


Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts


I have learned, over the years, that it is fairly easy to identify those adult novels that have been design to appeal to a certain book-reading demographic. This cover is a perfect example. If I could name this color scheme I’d call it “bookclub”. It’s a rather interesting subject for a novel, though. We meet Maud Gage Baum, wife of L. Frank Baum, on the set of The Wizard of Oz. She’s trying to retain his vision, but gets waylaid by her concern for Judy Garland. Meanwhile there are flashbacks to her early life, when she and Frank were just struggling to get by before he hit it big. No one’s calling it the world’s most brilliant book, but Library Journal and Publishers Weekly both liked it quite a lot. It’s a fun idea.


George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles by Timothy Larsen


Old George MacDonald isn’t quite as remembered here in the States as he might be. Still, his influence on children’s literature was undeniable. Sendak was a fan, after all. According to this publisher description, the author, “considers the legacy of George MacDonald, the Victorian Scottish author and minister who is best known for his pioneering fantasy literature. Larsen explores how MacDonald sought to counteract skepticism, unbelief, naturalism, and materialism and to herald instead the reality of the miraculous, the supernatural, the wondrous, and the realm of the spirit.” I just like the font they used for Larsen’s name on the cover here. Very Frank Lloyd Wright.


Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration by Leonard S. Marcus


Oh, that IS nice. A new Leonard Marcus book, and one about a very favorite children’s illustrator. Years and years ago she came to the States with Mem Fox, and that was the one and only time I ever saw her in person. I was awed, but it wasn’t until I’d had my own children and had read them countless Oxenbury-illustrated titles that my true admiration for her came through. This book will be out in April so be sure to look for it then.


Ludwig Bemelmans by Quentin Blake and Laurie Britton Newell


I was weeding my library’s adult Fiction section the other day, when I ran across a number of novels by Ludwig Bemelmans. Not many folks are reading his work for grown-ups these days (and he wrote multiple personal memoirs, to varying degrees of accuracy as well). It gave me an idea. I think I’ll make a display, one of these days, of adult works written by children’s authors. Shouldn’t be hard to fill up. There’s a lot of crossover out there. As for this book, according Thames & Hudson, this is, “A title in the new series, The Illustrators, which celebrates illustration as an art form, Ludwig Bemelmans offers a visually rich view into the life and work of this much-loved artist and writer, and includes exclusive sketches and photographs from the Bemelmans archive that have never been previously published.”


The Man in the Willows: The Life of Kenneth Grahame by Matthew Dennison


Do you remember The Bathroom Book? There was a flash-in-the-pan craze if ever I saw one. I remember, years ago, running across the strangest little facts about Kenneth Grahame in one of those books. I read that his had been a rather sorrowful life, what with his mother dying young, his guardian convincing him to work in a bank rather than go to university, and his son dying young of suicide. Kirkus isn’t a fan of this particular biography, but if you’re in the mood for something recent, this could fit the bill.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Carl in Charlotte says:

    One of my favorite books is Sendak’s illustrated version of The Light Princess by George MacDonald.