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Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult
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Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,402 ratings  ·  371 reviews
An irresistible, nostalgic, insightful—and “consistently intelligent and funny” (The New York Times Book Review)—ramble through classic children’s literature from Vanity Fair contributing editor (and father of two) Bruce Handy.

The dour New England Primer, thought to be the first American children’s book, was first published in Boston in 1690. Offering children gems of
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 7th 2018 by Simon Schuster (first published August 15th 2017)
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Bonnie Lambourn I listened to the audio cd - read by the author. He read the footnotes that were obviously in parentheses and quote this and that.

I personally did…more
I listened to the audio cd - read by the author. He read the footnotes that were obviously in parentheses and quote this and that.

I personally did not find him to be the best reader, and parts of the audio seemed to drop in sound here and there. I took mine out from my local library, and can only speak to my experience.

I forced myself to listen through this not fun book, for what tidbits I could gather not already known. No way I would have made it through reading, I think. (less)
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Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
For a person who loves (LOVES, even) reading about children's literature like me, this book was a prized find at the Texas Library Association Conference. It was the first book I had to read when I got home.

Handy is a knowledgable person about children's literature and he shares the wide research he did on the authors and books in Wild Things.

It's an amazing read for those of us who know and love Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, C. S. Lewis, and others. You will get all the
Rose Ann
The author lost me when he stated that he could not get more than 30 pages into "Anne of Green Gables" and yet he had the nerve to make a snarky remark about Anne later on in the book! Hello? What a gasbag!
Стефан Русинов
It was an interesting personal rundown on some of the history of American children's literature. I learned about some books I haven't yet read but would like to read and found out a few curious details about books and authors I already like.

As a whole, though, Wild Things was an unsatisfying and at times very annoying read. The subtitle of the book is The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult, but there's barely anything on the topic in it. Mostly it's a random, scattered (and very
I really enjoyed this one. It probably didn't hurt that, L.M. Montgomery and Judy Blume aside, Handy's tastes and opinions align very closely with my own (so clearly he knows Good children's books when he reads them!). Hard to say how much I “learned” – I was a children's librarian for ten years, and I read a lot to my own kids – but Handy writes well and with a casual tone that makes his book feel like a very engaging conversation on old favorite books and authors with an exceptionally well ...more
Delightful! This was warm and accessible and funny. I didn't agree with everything the author says (HE DOESN'T LIKE ANNE!!!!!) but I forgive him. He gets children, and children's books, and Little House!!!! He opened a chapter that was mostly about Charlotte's Web with Sunday school-book excerpts from those awful holy-child-who-patiently-dies-young books. Fantastic book. If you like children, like to read to children, or have fond memories of the books you read as a child, you need this.
Aug 31, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Don't bother with this tedious, critically vapid and utterly stupid book - Handy is an appallingly bad reader and I can find nothing good to say about this book at all - it is joyless, trivial and given the state of children's literature shows no understanding of the field or the texts - Handy doesn't have any insights at all into this fascinating genre worth listening to and his book is a total waste of time

This would be a perfect book to use with undergraduates to show how not to read
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, children
2.5 out of 5

I’m clearly not the target audience for this book because 1) I’ve never stopped reading children’s literature and 2) I’m currently studying children’s literature at the graduate level. Therefore, I didn’t find Wild Things particularly “profound” or “eye-opening.” Still, I enjoyed Bruce Handy’s conversational tone and appreciated his enthusiasm, the amount of research (mostly biographical) that went into writing this book, a few interesting observations, and some surprising
Denice Barker
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a reader. I read books. I read book reviews and I read about books. Reading books to children is golden. Perhaps it was with this in mind that when Mr. Handy revisited children’s literature when reading to his own children, he had a different perspective on what he remembered as a child. That is only logical and perhaps this is what sparked the idea for this book. I was allowed to read an advance copy of Wild Things and put everything aside to read it when it arrived.
Mr. Handy introduces
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should have read the blurb more carefully: 'ramble' is indeed the correct word. Random bits, some fairly well-developed, few of which interest me (at least so far, about 1/4). The title would be more accurate as something like 'Things about Children's Literature that are more interesting to adults," you see. Whereas I was hoping for an argument to justify the Principle, the Broad Justification, of "reading children's lit as an adult."

I will keep reading, at least for awhile. And I don't think
This book is as American as apple pie. It is wholesome, sweet and reminds me of all the comforts of home. This book overwhelms with its nostalgia.

I found some of Handy's insights on some of the books he mentioned to be particularly interesting. I loved learning about Beatrix Potter and how she, at 18, would go to museums and art galleries and write in her journal that Michelangelo was an 'awful painter' and Raphael 'couldn't draw horses'. She said, of Rubens, that his art 'lacked shadow, depth
Jonathan Maas
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Monumental, Yet Highly Accessible Book that Puts an Entire Genre in Perspective

They say that great writers shouldn't be afraid of taking on big themes, and Bruce Handy took on a big, big theme with Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult.

Namely, he took on the entire genre of Children's Literature.

He starts with the very first Children's books, in the 18th century or so, which are little more than directives from 1777's The Primer:

Cheat not in your play.
Strive to
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
I liked this book. The target audience will probably love this book. I read a lot of juvenile literature. Just tons of it. I've reread all my childhood favorites and now I'm working through the books that I didn't know about when I was a kid. BUT, that's why I'm not the target audience. This book is best suited for someone who hasn't gotten around to rereading all their childhood favorites yet OR for someone who didn't read many of the children's classics while growing up.

If you are a rational
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a warm, funny, well-researched, and thoughtful (as the author puts it) appreciation of the best of 19th and 20th Century children's literature. I was equally entertained and delighted by Handy's biographical sketches, criticism, and analysis. It helps that his taste is impeccable. (Handy's critique of Philip Pullman is much harsher than mine would be, but I can't say he's wrong.) I'm an adult (technically) who buys children's books for a living, so for me there's the added bonus of this ...more
Bruce Handy provides fascinating back stories for many of our favorite books that we adults read as children, as well as a healthy dose of the importance and joy of reading to our kids. Completely delightful. This book helped me realize exactly why I love my job as a children's librarian--Beverly Cleary, Margaret Wise Brown (don't miss her story!), CS Lewis, EB White--so many fantastic authors. And now, so many books I loved as a girl that I'm going to add to my "to read" list. Oh, and that ...more
Christie Angleton
Many of these essays are delightful, but Handy is a little too apologist when it comes to Dr Seuss.
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really am not exactly sure what to say about this book. I read it as part of a educator book club, and I was really hoping it would be a fun read that would focus mainly on how picture books can be meaningful, even for adults and older kids. I guess it kind of touched on that, but it ended up being more of a hodgepodge of the author's endless opinion ramblings and verbosity combined with some trivia about the authors of famous, older children's books. I was left feeling like I learned some ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those of us who love children’s books, Bruce Handy’s Wild Things is a pure pleasure! He revisits classics from Margaret Wise Brown, Sendak, Potter, Seuss, and many others, offering biographies and comparisons and often-offbeat analysis (he totally had me when he compared The Runaway Bunny to Portnoy’s Complaint). Read it and smile!
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read! Makes you see and appreciate your childhood - and grownup - reading in a whole new way. Such a cerebral but delightful blend of biography, criticism, history, and memoir. I am in awe of my brother Bruce.
Not quite the book I was expecting. I wanted to give up many times but the last two chapters (covering the Little House series and Charlotte's Web) were the best.
Allison Parker
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, nonfiction
This was, indeed, a joy to read. I would call it a perfect reading experience, except for the "two final pieces of consumer advice," both of which I've found terrific counterarguments for: "Don't buy children's books written by celebrities... and don't buy books with sparkles on the covers." I'm assuming that B. J. Novak of The Book with No Pictures counts as a celebrity, and Bob Shea's clever Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great has sparkles GALORE, but I guess they are tongue-in-cheek sparkles, so ...more
Katherine Varga
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
I liked learning about how many children's book authors were gay! This was a fun ramble through my childhood - I got to reminisce over the books I read a million times as a kid (Beverly Clearly) and peek inside the books I always saw on the shelf and ignored (the Little House series). Handy's voice is playful but erudite, betraying a love of fancy words without trying to be too academic. It was fun to get more context about the authors and the writing of the books, although I wish Handy leaned a ...more
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Wild Things tremendously -- it was like a really satisfying conversation with an old friend. BH and I agreed about nearly everything and our slight differences weren't enough to ruin my pleasure in the conversation. His writing style is conversational -- sometimes chatty -- but also incisive. He's a smart literary critic and also smart enough to avoid, mostly, writing like one. I'm also very excited by the bibliography and book lists in the back.

If I have one critique, it's that his
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems to me there are two ways to read children's literature as an adult. One is to read it as a way to revisit the sweetness of childhood and the other is to examine the deeper meanings through the lens of maturity and adult understanding and experience. This book mainly focuses on the latter but does touch briefly on the former. I listened to it on Audible and the author reads it. It's pretty amusing in places and very interesting. Some of the books he discussed were favorites and others I ...more
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely delightful book of literary criticism involving "children's books." There is so much wisdom and humor in all of the books he discussed. I need to go back and reread all of them!

There are some who do not like this book because the author mentions in passing that he does not like Anne of Green Gables. I LOVE the Anne books, but I am fine with someone having a different view point, especially if they can express it well. After sharing a quote from Anne of Green Gables, he notes that
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Read it. Peter have it to me. He loves analysis. I prefer to just love my books. A failing on my part? Most likely. I learned some interesting facts about authors and books. I’d not read everything the author included. Perhaps that would have upped the interest level for me. I just want the story, the characters, the emotions. Worth having read.
Sam (she_who_reads_)
Not really what I was expecting. While interesting, I didn’t really take much away from this one.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cue the Vince Guaraldi and let me slip into my childhood bathrobe, it's time to get nostalgic! Is there ever a more perfect book for me??

This was absolutely preaching to the choir, analyzing some of the best contributions to literature (for any age) in the past 60 or so years, with honorable mention to the fairy tales and fables that often inspired them. Bruce Handy organized the book in ascending age level, from The Runaway Bunny to books about death and everything in between. He so perfectly
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a delicious book! I paid full price for the epub version (something I rarely do these days) based on Jennifer Senior's mixed-opinion NYTimes review, in which she complains about its being too clever and glib. That review made me want to decide for myself. I do not share her complaints, but I was not reading it as a children's librarian or a teacher selecting titles for a book list. I was reading it in the sense in which I believe Bruce Handy wrote it--for pleasure. (Well, he did have a ...more
Marty Suter
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this romp through many of my favorite children's lit, reminiscing about reading many of these titles to my own kids (Goodnight Moon, Ramona the Pest, Where the Wild Things Are..., among others). Although I didn't agree with Handy's take on all the books (I actually liked Anne of Green Gables), he billed it not as a best of list but a review of simply his favorites. Great background info on the authors and illustrators of these classics! And I'm sure I'll go back and re-read many ...more
Sarah Harrison Smith
Bruce Handy is such a funny, smart writer that I whipped through this in two sittings. He doesn't try to cover the entire history of literature for kids -- acknowledging that much of the early stuff is awful -- but looks carefully at what he chooses to focus on. I loved his chapter on Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder especially, and he's spot on about Beverly Cleary, whom he compares to Henry James (with shorter sentences). You may disagree with his opinion of "The Giving Tree," or ...more
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Bruce Handy is currently a contributing editor of Vanity Fair. A former writer and editor at Spy and Time, his articles, essays, reviews, and humor pieces have appeared in such publications as The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, New York magazine, Rolling Stone, Vogue,

A native of California and a graduate of Stanford University, Handy lives in Manhattan with his wife,