The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Children’s literature’

We Must Protect the Children, and Other News

March 28, 2014 | by

we go to the gallery

  • Presented without further comment: John Updike’s shorts.
  • What if The Road, The Corrections, and Wonder Boys were children’s books? (The illustration of Alfred Lambert falling from the cruise ship is especially well done.)
  • Speaking of satirical children’s books: in the UK, Penguin has proven its humorlessness by suing the author of We Go to the Gallery, a brilliant parody of the Peter and Jane series. One panel is seen above. The lawsuit avows that We Go to the Gallery “pollutes the idyllic brand of Ladybird books … their argument is now fundamentally moral, not legal, and as such is an act of senseless and repressive censorship.”
  • And speaking of questionable litigation: here’s the history of late-night TV ads for unscrupulous lawyers. “There was an era before ads like these were allowed—and a big bang after which they couldn’t be contained. And now, the legal world is in a subtle, possibly endless civil war over how attorneys should advertise their services (and whether they should advertise at all).”
  • Today in interspecies communication: scientists can now translate dolphin whistles in real time.

 

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Stupid Is

March 26, 2014 | by

stupidsstepout

Do people still read The Stupids, that classic series of children’s books written by Harry Allard and James Marshall in the seventies and eighties? They must, right? They’re too good. Making fun of fools may not be officially acceptable these days, but few books are so perfectly calibrated to a child’s sense of humor. And I don’t imagine most children are in any danger of confusing the Stupids’ aggressively literal naïveté with real-life intellectual deficits. As the School Library Journal opined in a starred review of The Stupids Step Out, “Even youngest listeners will laugh with smug superiority as they follow these good natured dummkopfs from departure to journey’s end.”

But one naysayer—who gave the book a one-star review on Amazon—had this to say:

My seven-year-old recently brought this book home from his school library. I found it very offensive, because I think it teaches children that it’s funny to call others “stupid.” I cannot think of a circumstance in which it is appropriate for a child or an adult to use this word towards another person. I was so upset that I wrote a note to the school librarian.

In fact, “stupid” is an awfully harsh word. Read More »

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The Little Bookroom

March 24, 2014 | by

little bookroom

Detail from the cover of The Little Bookroom, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone

This morning, it was announced that the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) had named the Japanese writer Nahoko Uehashi and Brazilan illustrator Roger Mello the winners of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award. Founded in 1956, the biannual “Nobel of Children’s Literature” honors outstanding contributions to both writing and illustration. Past winners have included Maurice Sendak, Paula Fox, Tomi Ungerer, and Tove Jansson. They are, of course, named for the Danish writer of the world’s most disturbing fairy tales, and the recipients are given a medal, emblazoned with Andersen’s likeness, by the Queen of Denmark. 

The very first Andersen Award was presented to the prolific British writer Eleanor Farjeon, for her extremely bizarre collection The Little Bookroom. This book, illustrated by the peerless Edward Ardizzone, is composed of twenty-seven stories, all somewhat remote in tone, frequently redolent of loneliness, and often carrying a vague air of allegory. Read More »

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Cat Fancier

March 17, 2014 | by

james-joyce-the-cat-and-the-devil-uk-edition-L-VXhDbj

From The Cat and the Devil.

“I sent you a little cat filled with sweets a few days ago but perhaps you do not know the story about the cat of Beaugency,” begins James Joyce’s The Cat and the Devil, first published in 1965. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on this book as a child, you know that the illustrations, by Richard Erdoes, haunt your nightmares for years, and that it’s quite impossible ever to think of James Joyce without visualizing the Mephistophilean entity pictured therein. 

The story is based on an old French folktale: the desperate mayor of Beaugency makes a deal with the devil in order to get a bridge across the Loire. In exchange for the supernatural structure, the devil may claim the soul of whoever crosses it first. In the event, the townspeople foil the plot by sending over a hapless cat instead, and in the grand tradition of diabolical law, the devil is forced to abide by their reading of the contract. Read More »

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Disgusting Lives

March 11, 2014 | by

Goops and how to Be Them

From the cover of Goops and How to Be Them, 1900.

The other day I visited with a four-year-old friend; we read a book called Manners. As the title implies, this is a guide to basic children’s etiquette, with an emphasis on consideration for others, and it was cute and instructive. But I couldn’t help thinking that it didn’t have quite the élan of The Goops.

Created by the humorist Gelett Burgess (also inventor of “the blurb”) in the late nineteenth century, the Goops were humanoid characters with enormous round heads who behaved disgracefully—children could profit from their example and get an illicit thrill from their antics. “The Goops” comic strip was a recurring feature in the children’s magazine St. Nicholas. The book, Goops and How to Be Them: A Manual of Manners for Polite Infants Inculcating Many Juvenile Virtues Both by Precept and Example, with Ninety Drawings, came out in 1900 to instant acclaim. I can still remember the opening lines:

The Goops, they lick their fingers,
and the Goops, they lick their knives;
They spill their broth on the tablecloth,
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

Read More »

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The Arches of New York, and Other News

March 7, 2014 | by

arch

Photo: Michael Freeman, courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York, via Gizmodo

  • Because completion is for rubes—twelve books that end in the middle of a
  • A new app promises to help you speed-read. The technology is compelling, even if its name, Spritz, reminds one of cheap perfume and poolside wine cocktails.
  • Remembering, or simply remembering to notice, the arches of New York: “These structures were also marvels of artistic engineering, combining intricate brickwork with functional arrays of vaults and pillars, all leading to a kind of Mediterranean dreamworld of colonnades.”
  • “Britain’s best loved writers and storytellers have transformed themselves into the characters they most loved as children.” There’s Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and, perhaps best of all, there’s Malorie Blackman as the Wicked Witch of the West.
  • Everything about the Vikings was designed to stress their individuality … They were a bit like today’s punks or Hell’s Angels.”

 

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