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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Unexpected Jolts of Children’s Literature

As the publishing cycle ramps up for the fall, the number of titles I’m starting to see increase as well. Today we’re looking at adult titles that have some kind of a connection to the world of children’s books. And there is a wide range of books to choose between.

How We Can Win: Race, History and Changing the Money Game That’s Rigged by Kimberly Jones

This time last year a video started circulating around the interwebs, described in many places with titles like This Powerful Seven-Minute Explanation Of Why People Protest Is The Best Speech We’ve Heard About White Supremacy. In it, author Kimberly Jones gave one of the great talks of BLM.

From this video she would be interviewed on places like The Daily Show and other media outlets. Of course, she’s also a YA author (co-author of I’m Not Dying With You Tonight) as well. This November she has an adult title out with Henry Holt & Co.

Here’s the plot description:

“So if I played 400 rounds of monopoly with you and I had to play and give you every dime that I made, and then for 50 years, every time that I played, if you didn’t like what I did, you got to burn it like they did in Tulsa and like they did in Rosewood, how can you win? How can you win?”

How We Can Win will expand upon statements Kimberly Jones made in a viral video posted in June 2020 following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police. Through her personal experience, observations, and Monopoly analogy, she illuminates the economic disparities Black Americans have faced for generations and offers ways to fight against a system that is still rigged.

Something to look forward to.

From Sarah to Sydney: The Woman Behind All-of-a-Kind Family by June Cummins with Alexandra Dunietz

Apparently Sydney Taylor has never had an official biography of her life before. Odd? Absolutely. Considering the degree to which children’s literature is indebted to her, it’s downright strange. It was the Horn Book that reviewed this particular title recently, and they clue us in to some tasty tidbits: “Fascinating details surround Taylor’s pre-publication career as a stage actor and a dancer with Martha Graham as well as the lore of her series’ history … For better or worse, this biography belies the romanticized view of the real-life All-of-a-Kind Family members, but in the most humanizing and deeply empathetic of ways.” I’ll take it!

The Art of Alice and Martin Provensen

What’s your favorite Provensen title? This award winning team was responsible for such a wide swath of books that it feels strange for me to say that my favorite of theirs was the Little Golden Book title The Color Kittens. On occasion I deign to be gauche, but I don’t care. I’m sure your favorite is probably something far cooler like The Year at Maple Hill Farm. Well, at long last they’re getting a nice meaty bio from Leonard Marcus & Co. They say:

This comprehensive volume showcases hundreds of their well-known illustrations, as well as many never-before-seen paintings, drawings, and exquisite sketchbooks from their travels around the world. An interview with their daughter Karen Provensen Mitchell illuminates their life and career and includes many personal photographs, quotes, speeches, and memorabilia from their archive. An introduction by Leonard S. Marcus, a leading historian in children’s literature, underscores the Provensen’s importance and influence as illustrators and authors. Additionally, noted publisher and close family friend Robert Gottlieb, provides a personal essay that shares many of his memories with this cherished couple.

The Provensens’ colorful, inimitable artwork is a treasure trove that has influenced generations of children, designers, illustrators, historians, and all who cherish classic children’s books.

First Light: A Celebration of Alan Garner, edited by Erica Wagner

Different countries laud different authors. When I was a young pup, first stretching my MLIS muscles, I tried my hand at getting a nice rounded sense of the world of children’s literature by reading some Garner. Sadly, whatever I read didn’t stay with me. He’s not really remembered by a lot of folks in the States, but over in England the man is famous enough that he can get folks like Gaiman, Pullman, and even Margaret Atwood to talk about him. And he’s still alive! This is a book coming out in tandem with his 80th birthday. So you go, Mr. Garner! You go indeed.

Wendy Darling by A.C. Wise

For years, YA and children’s middle grade novels have been writing stories inspired by Peter Pan (heck I think there are at least 3 or 4 out this year alone). So it amuses me to no end when a title for adults does it and folks think it’s a new idea. Like Hook, this book is about what happens after Peter Pan ends. And it sort of takes the ending of the musical of Peter Pan, when Peter flies off with Wendy’s daughter Jane, as its cue. Kirkus has a nice encapsulation of the plot: “Writing from both Wendy’s and Jane’s perspectives, Wise (How the Trick Is Done) depicts a brutal reality underlying the world created by J. M. Barrie: women placed into sanitoriums against their will; women under patriarchal control. (The racism in Barrie’s Peter Pan isn’t replicated in Wise’s book; neither is it directly addressed.)”

Mind you, if this is set in that time period, what the heck is the Wendy on the cover of this book doing wearing pants and high heels?!?

We Are the Babysitters Club: Essays and Artwork from Grown-Up Readers, edited by Marisa Crawford and Megan Milks

Let the record show, I do not know any of the contributors to this book. According to this unauthorized anthology (their words), “Contributors include Paperback Crush author Gabrielle Moss, illustrator Siobhán Gallagher, and filmmaker Sue Ding, as well as New York Times bestselling author Kristen Arnett, Lambda Award finalist Myriam Gurba, Black Girl Nerds founder Jamie Broadnax, and Paris Review contributor Frankie Thomas.” Okay. There’s a Foreword by Mara Wilson, which is fascinating. Maybe she was in the first movie that came out? The PW Annex review is heartening, though, particularly when it says that the book does a, “fine job of balancing tenderness with critique.”

‎Japan and American Children’s Books: A Journey by Sybille A. Jagusch

Finally, I’d like to offer warm thanks to Heather Donovan for pointing this one out to me. And check it out! A Foreword by Carla D. Hayden?! Sorry, Mara Wilson. I’ve got a new favorite Foreword writer now.

What’s particularly interesting about this book is that it’s examining a cultural history through the lens of what people were teaching their children about Japan throughout American history. Or, put another way, here’s the publisher description:

For generations, children’s books provided American readers with their first impressions of Japan. Seemingly authoritative, and full of fascinating details about daily life in a distant land, these publications often presented a mixture of facts, stereotypes, and complete fabrications.

This volume takes readers on a journey through nearly 200 years of American children’s books depicting Japanese culture, starting with the illustrated journal of a boy who accompanied Commodore Matthew Perry on his historic voyage in the 1850s. Along the way, it traces the important role that representations of Japan played in the evolution of children&;s literature, including the early works of Edward Stratemeyer, who went on to create such iconic characters as Nancy Drew. It also considers how American children’s books about Japan have gradually become more realistic with more Japanese-American authors entering the field, and with texts grappling with such serious subjects as internment camps and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Drawing from the Library of Congress’s massive collection, Sybille A. Jagusch presents long passages from many different types of Japanese-themed children’s books and periodicals including travelogues, histories, rare picture books, folktale collections, and boys’ adventure stories, to give readers a fascinating look at these striking texts.

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.