Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Must-Read Article in the New Yorker

I just finished reading "The Lion and the Mouse: The battle that reshaped children’s literature" by Jill Lepore, from the July 21 issue of The New Yorker. I heartily recommend it to anyone who loves children's books.

Lepore's account of the appalling history of early children's services alone makes the article worth reading, but from there it goes on to report on the conflict between Anne Campbell Moore, NYPL's influential children's librarian and the author E.B. White. When you evaluate a new children's book, are you a Miss Moore, or an Ursula Nordstrom?

The article make me wonder: When did I form my ideas about what makes a good children's book, and how to recommend them to others? Was it when I was in the 5th grade and learned that my grandmother (a former teacher who graduated c. 1914) had thrown out all 44 copies of the Nancy Drew series that I had devoured the previous summer? Was it when I was in the 6th grade and listened in frustration to a salesperson at the old El Con Bookstore flounder about when asked for a good book for a 12-year-old? (It was my first reference question, and I talked him into The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.)

At any rate, I really enjoyed this article because it made me think about and remember why we do what we do.

I need to read Stuart Little again.

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