WRB—Children’s Literature Supplement, Dec. 2023
“Oh, is that the tear?”
We’re seven days away! Start the eggnog! Trim the tree! Rehearse those carols! And why the heck did we make so many cookies? With all these pressing details to attend to, no one wants to read a long newsletter—and Sarah only has time for a short one, alas. These last few days before Christmas are quite busy, but don’t forget to bask in the beauty that is the third week of Advent. Happy reading, and have a blessed and Merry Christmas.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) is, to coin a phrase, a classic. Unfortunately, the powers that be have authorized a sequel, but it did open the way for this fascinating Slate essay by Dan Kois:
But what happens after the Grinch steals, and then returns, Christmas? A new picture-book sequel, authorized by the Dr. Seuss estate, attempts to answer that question, and grow the lucrative property even further. But opening the perfectly adequate Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Lost Christmas!, which is written by Alastair Heim and illustrated by Aristides Ruiz, made me wonder: Who even is the Grinch? Why is he so disgusted by the residents of Who-ville? And why has Theodor Seuss Geisel’s green-furred holiday hater ruled the Yuletide season for nearly 70 years? Could it be that the Grinch is…a little bit…right?
Besides having a clever take on this holiday staple, Kois’s turns of phrase are, at times, quite amusing. Where else could you read the words “rictuses of delight” in a sentence?
Speaking of terrible sequels, A. A. Milne’s world of the One Hundred Acre Woods is getting a new character, and Sarah is displeased.
“We have Tolkien, but Tolkien only had MacDonald and his followers. To put the point bluntly, no MacDonald, no Tolkien,” writes Timothy Larsen. Sarah couldn’t agree more, and Larsen’s piece is excellent on its own, and as a treasure box of MacDonald book suggestions.
Set not in America but on the Hungarian plains at the turn of the century, this award-winning book was published in 1935. Seredy tells the story of young Kate (though the tale is not autobiographical), a city girl who is sent to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin on their ranch. Kate is a wild imp whose mother has died and whose father knows he cannot provide the strong, corrective hand she needs. This is amply, ably given to her by her uncle, Marton, the “good master” of the book’s title, and we see his wisdom and kindness transform his niece from a screaming, disobedient nuisance to a healthy, pleasing child.
This is one of those marvelous books that contain a bit of everything: adventure, history, folklore, farming, horses, holidays—and, through each of these, it opens our eyes to the richness of Hungarian culture. Like the American pioneers (though not pioneers themselves), the members of this busy ranch are continuously laboring.
If you live in Maryland, the Museum of Fine Arts is running a children’s book illustration exhibit through March 2024.
And if you’re in Washington, D.C., starting on January 21, the National Building Museum is putting on an exhibit entitled “Building Stories.” While this piece’s claim that “David Macaulay’s Cathedral (1973) reframed children’s literature” is an overstatement, it does an otherwise good job outlining the idea behind this clever exhibit.
Born in 1867 in London, Rackham was one of twelve children. As a child he had no formal art education, but he had a great love for art and constantly sketched animals and fantastic creatures to amuse himself. His parents noticed and took him often to art and natural history museums, where he would sit and draw. They also allowed him time to explore a 3-acre garden across the street from their home, where he was able to study nature attentively.