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Press Release Fun: Children’s Books Written by Well-known Authors of Adult Books at the Grolier Club

A little-known and unexpected aspect of 20th century literature is the delightful discovery that some well-known authors also wrote one or more children’s books.  This unusual literary theme is explored in the exhibition They Also Wrote Children’s Books, on view in the Grolier Club’s second floor gallery from March 4 through May 2, 2020.

Grolier Club member John Blaney has been collecting modern first editions for over 40 years by such distinguished authors as Maya Angelou, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Ken Kesey, Toni Morrison, William Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, and Virginia Woolf.  Each of these authors, among others, wrote children’s books and their works are included in the exhibition.

In this presentation, Mr. Blaney juxtaposes 39 children’s books that he has paired with the author’s more famous adult novel to help make the point.     

Certainly, the viewer will be familiar with some names who have popular books in both categories.   James Joyce and Graham Greene wrote a number of popular children’s books.  In the exhibit are Joyce’s The Cat and the Devil and Greene’s The Little Horse BusThe Red Pony, by John Steinbeck and author of The Grapes of Wrath, was so popular that it was made into a movie starring Robert Mitchum and Myrna Loy.  B is for Beer, by Tom Robbins, is self-admittedly a children’s book for grown-ups and a grown-up book for children.  But there are many well-known authors of best-selling adult books who have also written at least one children’s book, some excellent, some not so good. 

Ernest Hemingway’s book The Good Lion is a perfect example of a book that might not be appreciated or even understood by a child. He penned the book for a friend’s son.  In this fable, it seems the lion is very unhappy living in Africa—the other lions mock him because he refuses to eat the Hindu traders that pass through his village!  He is also teased because he has a pair of wings and so he decides to fly away to Italy.  Where? To Venice where he goes to Harry’s Bar and orders a very dry martini with Gordon’s gin, of course, from Mr. Cipriani.   And every child knows that the city symbol of Venice is a winged lion!

Also included in the exhibition are books in both categories by James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, Dylan Thomas, and Calvin Trillin, among others.  The exhibition offers a peek into the adult writers’ world and their varied approaches when addressing children.

VISITING THE GROLIER CLUB

47 East 60th Street 

New York, NY 10022 

212-838-6690, www.grolierclub.org 

Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm

Admission: Exhibitions are open to the public free of charge

For further information please contact:

Susan Flamm, Public Relations Consultant to the Grolier Club

212-289-2999, sflamm212@gmail.com

or

Jennifer Sheehan, Exhibitions and Communications Manager

212-838-6690 x 2, jsheehan@grolierclub.org

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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.

Comments

  1. I don’t want to miss this exhibit! I never thought of Steinbeck’s The Red Pony as a children’s book, but rather as a novella that became popular and was read in schools. Then again, the categories of children’s and young adult books have changed somewhat.
    Graham Greene has several picture books about vehicles, with pictures by the wonderful Edward Ardizzone:
    https://imaginaryelevators.blog/2018/06/08/graham-greene-childrens-author/
    Finally, I checked the Grolier Club’s website, and they have another great exhibit coming up, about Armed Services Editions of books for soldiers in World War II. Although this is not a children’s book theme, I did want to bring it to the attention of your readers, because it focuses on a successful campaign to bring works of literature to a crucial audience. That seems relevant to many other audiences, including kids.

    • Emily,
      Thanks for the information on the upcoming Grolier Club exhibit. My sister has been fascinated by this idea and these books. We will be in NYC the end of May and I am adding this to the list of things to do.