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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Unexpected Jolts of Children’s Literature

Here is what is happening right now, this moment, this time. As we speak, public libraries around the world are dealing with the fact that their cities are losing money. All that revenue that comes from the taxes that depend on sociable people, even parking, has dried up. And, if you are a librarian, you know what that means. When the city tightens its belt, the library has to tighten its own even tighter.

So I know that you collection development specialists out there are probably being told not to buy anything right now. I mean, what’s the point? If you buy physical materials they’re just gonna sit in a box in your technical services department somewhere, growing musty until someone’s able to get in there to catalog and shelve them. Might as well hold off on ordering altogether until we know when we’ll ever open up again.

To tide you over, and fill your days with visions of sweet books, it’s time for another edition of Unexpected Jolts of Children’s Literature! The adult world is keen, but it’s also filled with books that have something to do with literature for kids. Here then is the latest crop of books with a very specific bent. You may not be able to order anything right now, but by hook or by crook you can dream!

Looking Glass by Christina Henry

What is it about Alice? Honestly, there is something about that episodic little novel that inspires authors to traipse about in Wonderland at length. Christina Henry’s no newbie either. Back in 2015 she wrote Alice, to which this is a sequel. Happily, this book has garnered much better reviews than its predecessor, though whether it adds anything significant to the Alice canon, or simply reworks old existing ideas has yet to be seen.

Children’s Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling by Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles

It’s here, it’s here! I can hardly believe it! I’ve been leaning heavily on the original edition of this book (published back in 2012) for years. Here’s a funny story for you: Once in the grip of great and unwieldy hubris I agreed to submit a chapter to The Routledge Companion to Picturebooks. Almost immediately discovering myself to be out of my depth, I did a great deal of research (before ultimately finding a savior in Junko Yokota, but that’s a story for another day) including this very book. To my mind, there are few tomes to compare. And now to find that it has been updated… well, I’m pretty psyched. God, I am SUCH a nerd!

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein, illustrated by Maira Kalman

It’s one of those pairings that are so natural you find yourself slightly confused that it didn’t exist before. Sort of like hearing an ancient celebrity has died, only to say, “But weren’t they already dead?” Maira Kalman illustrated Toklas? Are you honestly telling me that this book hasn’t existed before? Kalman, after all, is such a natural pairing to Stein’s work. I feel that I’ve entered a parallel universe where something common to me is new to everyone else.

Cursed, edited by Marie O’regan and Paul Kane

“Readers won’t have to be Brothers Grimm fans to appreciate this dark mélange.” So says PW Reviews about this collection of fairy tales from all kinds of big name authors. Your Jane Yolens. Your Neil Gaimans. These stories are twenty in total, and some are familiar. For example, I know that Gaiman’s “Troll Bridge” was published as a stand alone graphic novel a year or two ago. The reviews are good, so if you’re looking for something infused with a little bit of creepy magic, its got your number.

Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson, Boel Wesson, and Helen Svensson

I didn’t even know that this pretty little book even existed until I opened my most recent issue of The New Yorker and discovered an entire review dedicated to this collection of the Moomin creator’s letters. In an odd little twist, Boel, Jansson’s biographer, and Svensson, her last book editor, organize the letters by correspondent and not chronologically. It’s an interesting method, particularly when you take into account the fact that the dates range from 1932 to 1988. This is for the Moomin completist in your life.

Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney

I couldn’t be more shocked if Mary Downing Hahn suddenly came out with an adult thriller. Cooney?!? Are we talking about The Face on the Milk Carton Cooney? That Cooney? Indeed we are and whatever higher being persuaded her to try her hand at an adult mystery, they are to be commended. PW called this book “solid”, but I’m still interested in the fact that after a four year gap Ms. Cooney has eschewed YA and picture books and gone full-on adult literary on us. In any case, it’s nice to have her back.

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.