Bruce Handy explores the appeal of Children’s Literature in Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature As An Adult. My favorite chapters are the ones on Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon which originally was titled Goodnight Room), Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss, and Beverly Cleary (the Ramona series). Wild Things is not a comprehensive survey of children’s books, but it does a nice job identifying great books and what makes them great. After finishing Wild Things I wanted to drop everything and read a Ramona book! What were your favorite books when you were a kid? GRADE: A
Introduction xii
1. New Eyes, New Ears: Margaret Wise Brown and Goodnight Moon 1
2. Runaways: Family Drama in Picture Books–and Well Beyond 25
3. Once Upon a Time and In and Out of Weeks: Fairy Tales and Maurice Sendak 43
4. Why a Duck? The Uses of Talking Animals from Aesop to Beatrix Potter to Olivia the Pig 77
5. You Have to Know: Dr. Seuss vs. Dick and Jane 107
6. Kids Being Kids: Ramona Quimby, American Pest 139
7. God and Man in Narnia 161
8. One Nation: Washington’s Cherry Tree, Rosa Parkes’s Bus, and Oz 183
9. Going on Seventeen (Or Not): Little Women, Little Houses, and Peter Pans 205
10. The End: Dead Pets, Dead Grandparents, and the Glory of Everything 239
Afterward 263
Acknowledgements 267
Appendix 271
Bibliography 279
Index 289


  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    Loved Wind in the Willows Read all of Eleanor Cameron’s Mushroom Planet books and Walter Farley’s horse books. I was too old for Roald Dahl. He didn’t start writing children’s books until I was in my midteens. Read Heinlein’s juveniles. Mostly read non fiction as a kid. Books about the Norse, Roman and Greek gods. Books about animals. The Ramona books I was not aware of or thought them for girls. Read some Hardy Boys and Tom Swift Jr.

  2. Maggie mason

    What a great idea for a book. I guess Harry Potter is aimed at older kids and thus not mentioned.

    Dr. Seuss lived in La Jolla, and when I was a child my mom and I went to a signing with a friend of mine and her mom. They just bought one book for us to share, and guess who DIDN”T end up with it: the book freak (me). Twenty or so years ago, you could find signed books at library/estate sales. His widow, Audrey Giesel is a well known figure around town, though not so much in the last few years.

    One kids book I discovered as an adult was Make Way for Ducklings. On a trip to Boston to visit friends, the kids had a library copy and would ask me to read it over and over. As a parting gift, the friend I was travelling with and I bought them their own copy. I still find it a charming book.

    I recently cleared out some of my Nancy Drew books. I had continued to buy them for some years, and had to purge them. I’ve kept the ones up till the early 60’s when I outgrew the series. I have a goal of re-reading them before getting rid of them, but haven’t had time to read more than one. I have many of them with the dust jackets with the white spines. I used to go to used book shops and pick up books just for those jackets.

    One treasure is 2 signed copies. One is a copy of the book where Mary Mason is the villain. My friend Nancy had a friend who belonged to the same club Mildred Wirt Benson did in Ohio. He got 2 books signed for me and some signed for Nancy and some she gave to a young cousin. She died shortly after that.

  3. Deb

    I read the Dr. Seuss books, of course (THE CAT IN THE HAT was the first library book I ever checked out). I was always reading, but it wasn’t until I started Enid Blyton’s books about plucky kids having adventures with nary a parental figure in sight that I found my childhood catnip. As a parent, GOODNIGHT MOON, was always in heavy rotation when our kids were young. I try to always put a copy in the gift bag when I go to a baby shower.

  4. Bill Crider

    Maggie, my great-uncle Everett G. Jackson was at San Diego State for many years and was friends with Geisel. I didn’t get any signed books, either, though.

    1. Maggie mason

      Your uncle was a SD legend, and your aunt was a society columnist for many years as I recall. His books are getting scarcer each year (though I go to few sales any more)

  5. Jeff Meyerson

    The first book I remember as a kid was HORTON HATCHES AN EGG. I never read Winnie the Pooh and didn’t read CHARLOTTE’S WEB until I was an adult. I did read the Hardy Boys books. And OLD YELLER.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, we had “Library Day” at school each week so I got into the habit of taking out a book a week to read (usually The Hardy Boys series). My mother and father would take us to the local public Library on a regular basis. My mother also read to us when we were children. My brother, my sisters, and I are all Big Readers.

      1. Maggie mason

        My elementary school didn;t have a library. We used to walk over the the public library many weekends

      2. george Post author

        Maggie, my elementary school didn’t have a school library for the first couple years so each week the Bookmobile (basically an RV with bookshelves and library books) would make a visit. Later, a room was dedicated as the School Library. Diane calls my Rogue “The Bookmobile” because I’m always carrying a bunch of books around.

      3. Jeff Meyerson

        I don’t know why my siblings never read as much, but I always did. My mother took us to the library and I always loved it. Before we moved to Brooklyn from Queens, we had a weekly bookmobile come around and I loved it. It was small enough that you could really look at everything. My mother bought those Reader’s Digest Condensed Books (3 or occasionally 4 books in one, somewhat abridged), and I remember reading a lot of books in them, sometimes getting the unabridged copy afterwards.

        Can’t believe I never checked before, but here are the books: Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.

        Some I remember reading:
        The High and the Mighty (because it was a favorite movie)
        The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant (Damn Yankees)
        The Day Lincoln Was Shot
        I see they published OLD YELLER but I’m sure I got the paperback in school, presumably from Scholastic.

        My mother never censored what I was reading. She was always a voracious reader to the end, and always called to ask me about authors and books.

      4. wolf

        I also remember thos Reader’s Digest editions – my grandmother had a subscription (in German of course) and I used to read them – children’s books were not my favourites.

        And later (when I was 14 years old) I’d go to the city library almost evry afternoon. They got also new books from the America House (German translations of course) every two weeks so I read stuff like Cannery Row and many others – the librarian didn’t mind me reading “adult” stuff!
        As a student of course I started to read the originals in the America House in the university town of Tübingen where I later moved to.

      5. george Post author

        Wolf, I occasionally see those Reader’s Digest editions at Library Book Sales. Since most of the selections are abridged, I generally skip them.

  6. Patti Abbott

    Great idea for a book. Loved the Maude Hart Lovelace books, the shoes books, All of a Kind Family books, the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, the Little Maid books, and so many more. I read five books every week because that was what I was allowed by the library.

    1. Maggie mason

      As a bookseller, I used to find and sell Maud Hart Lovelace books, but had never heard of her as a child. shoes books, all of a kind family or Little maid books are series books I’ve not heard of.

      I read Bobbsey twins, Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, Dana Girls, Trixie Belden, and the occasional Hardy boys books. In the 4th or 5th grades, we’d swap with the boys when we ran out of “our” series.

      1. george Post author

        Maggie, I just happen to know that Beth Fedyn has come into a bunch of Trixie Belden books. She might share the doubles with you!

      2. Jeff Meyerson

        Jackie loved Pippi Longstocking as a kid and wanted her life – free to do what you want, your own house, absent parent was her ideal life.

        Later she read a lot of “career girl” books -Cherry Ames – Nurse (also Sue Barton), Vicki Barr – Flight Stewardess, The Dana Girls, and the like. Yet she felt her only career choices at the time (she really wanted to be a journalist) was teacher, nurse, or secretary. All three sisters and their mother were teachers.

  7. Maggie mason

    I’m currently a book provider to 5 families and 2 free libraries. A friend is an executor of an estate that belonged to a former teacher. At first, we found just a few dozen books, which I sold for them to a bookstore where my friend scott works. After 2 estate sales, he asked me to take all the kids books. I had put the books the store didn’t buy at a pathetic little free library near my house (bless their hearts for doing it). I went into the storage shed in the back yard and found hundreds of books. One family I gave them to was outside when I was on my am walk, and they thanked me for them. I asked if they were ok age wise and was told yes, so I said I had more (I’d left 15 for them, for all 3 kids). One little boy just beamed, I thought he was going to jump up and down for joy. That afternoon I left an additional 25 books for them. I have about 10 others to leave them so far, and some coloring books. Seeing that kid so happy really made my day.

    I have one more bin to go thru, and not all are kindergarten level (what she taught), so will probably have one more round of books for the 5 families and the free libraries.

    1. george Post author

      Maggie, the sad state of books around here is that most used bookstores have closed. We’re down to just a handful. And, many libraries are now refusing to accept used books.

  8. Rick Robinson

    When I was small my parents read to me every night, and I remember one of my favorites was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Also, A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books, and the two books of poetry, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. I can still quote part or all of many of those poems.

    Also: Make Way for Ducklings, Wind in the Willows, Peter Rabbit, Paddington Bear, all of the books by Holling Clancy Holling, especially Minn of the Mississippi, Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

    Later, I was reading The Hardy Boys books, and the Winston Science Fiction Library books. which launched me into Heinlein and so on.

  9. Cap'n Bob

    I had some Little Golden Books that I enjoyed. my earliest memory of a book that was mine alone was Doctor Dan the Bandage Man. That whetted by appetite for Proust, Rabelais, and Camus.

    1. george Post author

      Bob, we had at least a dozen Little Golden Books in our book stack as kids. My mother would read them to us until we could read them on our own.

  10. Maggie mason

    I found some little golden books while cleaning out. I had made little pockets for the book and put the title and book number for the “mason library”. Not sure they were every checked out by anyone other than me, but the highest number was in the 200’s. Have no idea where most of them went.


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