March 4, 2021

Forget 'Hunger Games': Kiddie Lit Owns the 'Net These Days'

Young adult fiction gets its due, what with all the hub-bub about Katniss and the Hunger Games, and I hear there’s a movie about vampires and werewolves? Twi-something or other? But can I get a what, what, from the kiddie lit fans this morning? FINALLY we got our due! And we’ve got Maurice Sendak, Richard Scarry, and the Google Doodle to thank. Egads, kids, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

Sendak — he of Where the Wild Things Are fame — is hot, hot, hot on Google because he’s publishing a new book! In case you’re more YA than kiddie lit fan, let me explain the importance for you. This is the FIRST book book written by the classic author since 1981.

Based on a skit he did for Sesame Street in the 70s, Bumble-Ardy will be hitting the shelves in the form of a half-million book first printing from Harper Collins Children’s in the fall. It’s a marker for us kiddie lit fans because of the nostalgia factor — if you happen to remember the skit about the pig throwing himself a 9th birthday party, you can now share it with your kids. Stepping beyond that, Sendak happens to be one of those authors who challenges kids to really think. His books can scare kids, and he’s not surprisingly landed on lists of most challenged books and most challenged authors.

I get it. It’s “cool” to read young adult fiction these days. But Sendak epitomizes the author of children’s literature that cultivates fans of the genre. Stepping beyond the idea that “anyone can write a children’s book with some simple words and pretty pictures,” he’s the rare bird that can write both a story simplistic enough for children to grasp and complex enough to push them ahead. That’s how I pick a kid’s book these days, if it pushes my kid to learn without bogging her down in inanity. That’s pretty dang cool, in my mind.

And then there’s Richard Scarry. His 92nd birthday is being honored on Google today. He’s the polar opposite of Sendak and then some. And yet, ask me, a kiddie lit obessive, for a short list of illustrators, and he’s right up there. Because books aren’t simply about the words, are they? At our age, yes. But at 3 or 4, the fantastical, busy, busy worlds of foxes on bikes and lions in houses engages them and forces them to question everything they know. Again, I’m calling it. COOL!

So you can have your Hunger Games, your Twilight. I’ll keep my kiddie lit. Thanks to Maurice Sendak and co, there’s always a new world to discover.

Do you have a secret kiddie lit fetish? Spill. Who’s your fave?

Lintasberita at Google

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