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Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature
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Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  557 ratings  ·  147 reviews
Secret lives, scandalous turns, and some very funny surprises — these essays by leading kids’ lit bloggers take us behind the scenes of many much-loved children’s books.

Did Laura Ingalls cross paths with a band of mass murderers? Why was a Garth Williams bunny tale dubbed "integrationist propaganda"? For adults who are curious about children’s books and their creators, he
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Candlewick Press (first published April 22nd 2014)
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Lia Marcoux
Oct 06, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this, but overall I would have liked a meatier read on these topics. It felt more like chit-chat, whereas I like my nonfiction to be written in a tone that justifies my feelings of smugness for reading it ("I'm Improving My Mind", I want to be thinking). This was irreverent, which makes sense given the subject matter, but it was sometimes at the expense of actual information.

I really enjoyed the chapter on well-meaning censorship in children's literature. I'd like to learn mor
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: yabc-reviews, arc
For more reviews, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.

For those who don’t know, I have a degree in librarianship. Sadly, I hated my Master’s program, but you can call me “master” which is pretty cool. One of the only courses I actually enjoyed during my time in library school was on the history of children’s literature. I’ve been a reader all my life and despite the fact that I didn’t read many of the children’s’ classics (or I did and forgot them), the history of children’s’ books
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: kids' lit students
Recommended to Joan by: won a copy from Candlewick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-ya
I was hoping this would be more about dishing (Wanda Gag’s diary: “We would quote some more of the passages for you, but the pages of this book might ignite.” Dang, guys! It’s evil to tease like that!) and less about Issues…but there’s still sufficient scandal threaded through the moral and social ruminations to keep things lively. I did see a contradiction in all the mocking of pundits and librarians who object(ed) to language, character types, violence or values in children’s books that seemed ...more
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This has prompt me to look up many books. I already had a banned/challenged bookshelf, but this encouraged me to seek more of those books out. I was already interested in LBGTQ+ picture books (and to a lesser extent YA, I have read Luna and heard of many that were mentioned), and this helped list titles I was unfamiliar with. I will also now be seeking out books by celebrities and books that won awards (good as well as bad awards).

I loved how the idea of censorship was presented. It's a thorny i
Kaethe Douglas
The three authors were all US children's book bloggers, so the focus is there. They cover such issues as diversity in authors, book banning, the history of kid's books in the US, adults-reading-children's books, and many other things as well (sex, matricide-with-a-fork, "celebrity" "writers", etc.)

Lots of fun stuff, well-presented, and amusingly. Should appeal to readers of children's books, librarians, teachers, and those of us who just can't ignore a catchy phrase like "matricide-with-a-fork"
Sep 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Overall quite contradictory, in its condemnation of books that will doubtless be re-evaluated in the near future, and its utilitization of a nebulous definition of "PC," deciding for others what is offensive and why. Many aspects of the book will not hold up as well as, say, Caldecott and Co.: Notes on Books and Pictures, or Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood, but I still highly recommend "Wild Things!" for its varied opinions on many books and issues.

"Wild Th
Kimberly Hornberger
Sep 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
I was so excited to read this book which promises to tell the stories behind favorite children’s lit authors and illustrators. Instead, it’s a book whose main message seems to be that the authors and illustrators who are “progressive” thinkers (read: sex, drugs, anti-“the man” -literally said so many times- and anti-traditions) are the good ones. All others are just “fluffy bunnies” and deserve to be burned. The only true art is ones who challenge our way of thinking (read: tell us porn or anti- ...more
Dec 13, 2014 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm still not sure how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it contained some dishy, gossipy stories that I never knew and I enjoyed that. It also discussed several issues about children's publishing that I think are important, like the influx of celebrity authors and the impact of the Harry Potter series, and these issues are discussed in an intelligent and balanced manner. On the other hand, I felt throughout my reading experience like I was missing something. Often when that happens, it's ...more
Corinne Edwards
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wild things is a book for Bibliophiles. It's an ode to children's literature - a romp through the ins and outs and behind-the-scenes adventures of the authors, publishers, editors and yes, readers of literature for the young. In a conversational and familiar tone, this book assumes the reader knows a little about books and wants to know MORE, more about how this book world works and more about how it came to be the way it is.

I found it to be really engaging. I particularly loved the anecdotes an
2021 Reading Challenge Week 8: A Book About Books

For this week's challenge, I had it narrowed down to this or Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. This won the day because of my lifelong love of children's literature, and I really admire the author, Betsy Bird. I first encountered Ms. Bird about 18 years ago via her uniquely thorough and thoughtful reviews of children's books on I later discovered her blog. This is a woman who knows and genuinely loves children's literature thr
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Ok, so, this book is pretty much my ideal book, as far as nonfiction books go, so my views of it as Completely Awesome are probably pretty subjective. I'm hugely interested in children's literature, the history of children's literature, and the study of non-mainstream stories for kids, which is all what this book is about. But this book, besides being about all those things, is also delightfully written, engaging, and witty. The authors know what they're talking about, and it's clear that a ton ...more
Virginia Walter
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Even readers like me who have spent many decades reading, writing, writing about, and teaching about children's books will find interesting new bits of gossip and trivia here. Who knew that Wanda Gag had a scandalous sex life? Or that Tolkien turned down Maurice Sendak as an illustrator for a new edition of THE HOBBIT because an editor mistook Sendak's drawing of wood elves for hobbits, thereby convincing Tollkien that Sendak hadn't read the book closely enough? Some of us can't get enough of th ...more
Jessica Robinson
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Light and charming from beginning to end. This isn't the book for someone wanting an in-depth look at the childrens' book industry but if you want to learn about a beef between J.R.R. Tolkien and Maurice Sendak which robbed us of a Sendak-illustrated Hobbit or hear how Laura Ingalls Wilder implied that her Pa may have rid the world of a few serial killers, this is the book for you. ...more
May 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
While it may not be the most definitive work on children's literature or on the naughtier bits of author's lives, it still was a fun and informative read. I've already recommended it to a few people but I think anyone interested in children's lit will find something of interest here. ...more
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you have an interest in children's books, this is a delightful deep dive into some of the various aspects of children's books. From picture books to young adult novels, this covers subjects like author sexuality to reasons books are banned to the rise of series. It was well worth the time if only for learning that my own mother unintentionally raised me on mostly gay authors and illustrators. ...more
Marjorie Ingall
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grownups
Lots of fun. I've read a couple of scholarly books about subversive and radical kidlit; this, on the other hand, is a casual, chatty, gossipy spin, way less work to read and way more playful. Folks who are familiar with the history of popular children's books won't find a lot of surprises (PL Travers was pretty dang racist! there are many shitty celebrity-penned kidbooks! noted loonybat Courtney Love is author Paula Fox's granddaughter, and Fox doesn't like her much either!) but I enjoyed the bo ...more
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
If you are at all into children's books, this behind-the-scenes tell-all is sort of like reading a supermarket tabloid about the stars: lots of juicy gossip. Still, some serious issues are addressed (and truthfully, those chapters are not nearly as much fun). The three authors blog about children's books and are apparently friends (although one of the authors has passed away and the book is dedicated to him). This book was just a real lark of a read. I kind of skimmed the preachy bits---I have p ...more
Oct 19, 2014 rated it liked it
If you like children's lit, you'll appreciate this. But...I had trouble with the voice and focus. Right from the start, the authors seem to apologize for children's literature and then, through their "shocking" tales, rescue it from a perceived world of "cute." First, I just don't think a non-believer is going to pick up this book, so the apologizing isn't really necessary, nor is it based in anything accurate. Second, those who do pick up the book (the aforementioned children's lit "believers") ...more
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a terrific book for anyone who is passionate about children’s literature. For those who have grown up reading classic children’s books, those who have written and will write children’s books, and anyone who loves to hear the juicy secrets lurking behind a seemingly tame body of works. This is a collection of little known facts about favorite authors, discussions on what makes children’s literature so great, and helps explain why we never seem to completely grow out of it. AND there is an ...more
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book hit all the right tones with me. It felt a little gossipy with fascinating snippets about some of my favorite authors, but at the same time meatier issues such as book-banning and diversity are addressed. As a bonus, I knew almost all of the authors discussed which made me feel well-read and high brow. It's always a plus when that happens.
I would have loved to have had more. More stories shared, more gossip given, more speculation, and more topics discussed. Maybe they'll make a second
Edward Sullivan
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book will be especially entertaining and informative for readers who don't have a lot of knowledge about children's books but who would like a fun and entertaining backstage history of this world that is not all fluffy bunnies, rainbows, and unicorns. I know a lot about children's publishing history but there are some great stories in here I never knew. I would have liked a bit more juicy gossip but anyone who wants to know the stories behind some the most revered children's book creators w ...more
Kay Mcgriff
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I expected to enjoy this romp through children’s literature based on reviews I had read before Christmas, and I was not disappointed. Reading it is like sitting down with a group of smart, funny friends who know the dirt on everyone in the business. Not only do they know fascinating trivia and scandalous stories, but they also have immense respect for the people–writers, illustrators and editors (maybe not all the celebrities)–who have contributed to children’s literature through the ages.
Adrienne Pettinelli
Smart, funny book about children's books, and not just because I'm quoted. Julie, Betsy, and Peter have such an impressive combined background and knowledge--and they communicate their stories and ideas in ways that are as entertaining as they are informative. (I have read a LOT of books about children's books this year, and this is the only one that made me snort-laugh.) I've added things to my to read list and am thinking about a few things in a whole new way. Fantastic. ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Honestly, the truth is that we don’t need to tell everything. I’d have to say that, for the most part, that is true of this entire book. Do we really need to know all the secret lives of our most beloved authors and illustrators? I’d say no. And, consequently, I’d tell you, if you feel the same way, then don’t bother reading this book.
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, professional
Thoroughly enjoyable, I liked the flippant tone and their choice of topics, especially the discussion of how children and adults read the same books differently. Also, from Jennifer Boylan's mother: "it is impossible to hate anyone whose story you know." I Iook forward to a sequel. ...more
Monica Edinger
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous fun. The three do a great job bringing out the real world behind all those fluffy bunnies. At times hilarious, poignant, and informative. Well done, Betsy, Jules, and the late great Peter.
Just the right amount of academia and snark

I'd love it if there was eventually a Volume 2 of Wild Things.
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved, loved, loved this book! If you have any interest in the history of children's literature, or the hidden stories behind some of your favorite children's authors, you have to check it out! ...more
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Entertaining and sassy look at some of the trends in children's literature as well as some of its underbelly. It's not all fluffy bunnies! Most evident here is the 3 contributors' love and respect for the genre. "The one constant truth about children's literature is the immense influence it has on its readers' lives.... Literature writes children's book author Julius Lester, is one way we enter the realm of the imaginative, and it enables us to put ourselves in another's shoes and experience 'ot ...more
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Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, undisputed center of the universe, Betsy Bird (nee Elizabeth Ramsey) grew up and promptly left Michigan the moment her legs could propel her southward. She didn't get far. Obtaining a B.A. at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana (home of recorded jazz and don't let anyone tell you otherwise) she set her sights on Portland, Oregon. When that didn't pan out it was Minnea ...more

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