In Common – September 14th Edition

In Common is my (mostly) weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the week, and current reading list.

I took a long break from my reading updates, but I am elbow-deep in so many books,  I thought it was time to get back to it!

This week I am wrapping up some books, and making room for some new September reads. I wanted to share some notable quotes before I put these books away and and new titles to the list.

Bruce Handy’s Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, was a delight. He spent six years putting this book together and the effort was worth it. He read books from his childhood, as well as children’s books he passed over as a youth. His analysis of books, compared to how he remembers them as a child, or as most children remember them, is quite interesting. Each chapter has its anchor book, but he weaves in references to similar titles, along with fascinating background details of the authors. He writes with a humorous voice that adds to the book’s enjoyment. He gave his honest opinion on books as well – something I appreciated because I understand that some people don’t like certain books, regardless of their status as classics or cult favorite. I appreciated his honesty.

In the Introduction, Handy recounts reading The House at Pooh Corner to his children. In the scene where Christopher Robin has to tell Pooh that he is going away and cannot do “nothing” anymore, Handy describes it as a “wrenching scene” and a little while later,

As I read this aloud, I couldn’t help but weeping. It’s a story, of course, about leaving childhood behind, which for poor baffled Pooh, the one being left – the one who exists only in Christopher Robin’s imagination – is a kind of death. … All this was swirling through my head as I read, tears spilling down my face, and my heartless kids couldn’t have cared less. (p. xx)

Having gotten the raised eyebrows from my kids as I cry my way through The Velveteen Rabbit (every time!), I found his tongue in cheek description of his children hilarious.

In his chapter entitled Runaways, he tackles books with characters that deal with family drama, bad parents, and yes, even runaways (most notable being The Runaway Bunny). In another example of his humor, he writes about “bad” parents:

There are a few characters I might accuse of sloppy parenting, such as the Man in the Yellow Hat, who is so laissez-faire that he never realizes that merely admonishing Curious George to be a good monkey, and then abandoning him for hours on end, will never not prove a recipe for disaster. And as we will see, the mother in The Cat in the Hat is so loopy she leaves her children in the care of a fish; hers will be the house where all the kids go to smoke weed in high school. (p. 28)

In his chapter on Beatrix Potter, he writes,

A key aspect of Potter’s genius is that she keeps one foot firmly planted in each world, human and beast; her stories are familiar yet strange, cozy yet haunted by Darwinian menace. In her view, anthropomorphism had well-defined limits, as she noted by way of criticizing her contemporary Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows: “A frog may wear galoshes; but I don’t hold with toads having beards and wigs.” (p. 98)

Later, he writes about Beverly Cleary and the Ramona books.

Reading Ramona the Pest makes me feel five again – not a 100 percent pleasant sensation, but a powerful one. Ramona’s vividness on the page and her headstrong joie de vivre are big reason’s why. So too is Cleary’s recognition of the way seemingly minor details can loom so large for a young child trying to make sense of the world. (p. 149)

Handy includes an appendix, where he suggests book pairs, as well as a fairly extensive bibiography. This book was a fun and informative read, and is a great resource for considering books to read to your own family, or on your own.

Current (Personal) Reads:

Current Read Alouds:

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