Some of my books

Hello! I’m here to write about old kids’ books, especially the strange or forgotten ones. As both a mother and closet kids-book-reader, I’m always on the hunt, which has led me down some quite unexpected pathways. This blog is to share what I’ve found.

(I’m also a professor, so I can access rare books. Some of them are rare because they’re bad. I read them so you don’t have to.)

I’m interested in books that have what Zilpha Keatley Snyder (author of The Egypt Game and The Changeling) called “strangeness,” though I think my definition is broader than hers. They needn’t have magic or fantasy elements, but they do need something striking about them, something that pulls you out of the ordinary. So I mostly won’t be covering books about regular children doing day-to-day things (Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, etc.). These are excellent books with many loyal fans, and if that’s your thing you can start your own blog.

I’m also interested in threads of influence — what books did a writer read and love, and how does that pop out unexpectedly in their own writing? There are, of course, the big, obvious influences (oh look, it’s Gandalf again), but I find it’s more fun to track the small and weirdly specific details.

Doctor Dolittle (1920); Babar and Father Christmas (1931); The Little Prince (1943); James and the Giant Peach (1961).

Let me emphasize that this is all in fun, and not about blame. Source amnesia is a real thing, and the arts would be the poorer without it.

Another angle I will be covering is racism, sexism, warped moral codes, and other examples of our ancestors’ bad judgement.

The specs: I’m covering children’s novels (approx. ages 8-12, sometimes called middle-grade fiction — in other words, not picture books nor young adult, though I stray a little in both directions). And I’m covering a particular era, the first three-quarters of the 20th century. The year 1900 fairly neatly marks the beginning of the modern children’s novel, and the mid-1970’s marks a time when things fell apart a bit, before reviving again in the post-Harry-Potter era. The years 1900-1975 make a tidy segment of history to explore.

I hope you enjoy what you find here.


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