Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kids' Books Rediscovered, Again

Every few years, someone has their own personal Eureka! moment and announces there is--contrary to expectation--something of real value in children's books. Some of us--even most of us--have known this for a long time and can only smilingly indulge the johnny-come-lately.

The most recent discoverer is Pamela Paul in a NYTimes Book Review essay "The Kids'Books Are Alright." Those with functioning memories may recall not so long ago the denizens of taste making the same comment (regarding alright-ness) about the Harry Potter books. It has ever been thus. The bestselling books of the 1880's included: Uncle Remus, Heidi, Treasure Island, A Child's Garden of Verses, Huckleberry Finn, and Little Lord Fauntleroy; if these books were the equivalent then of today's adult blockbusters, then someone declaring they are "alright" would have seemed like the village idiot proclaiming his discovery that the ocean is salty. Duh.

Still, Paul's enthusiasm (however naive) is refreshing. She ends her 2010 essay: You "need not be embarassed about still reading kids' books." Since she's keen now on reading. Paul may now wish to turn to a forty-year-old discussion of alright-ness in Russel Nye's 1970 study The Unembarassed Muse. It turns out that embarassment is in the eye of the perceiver.

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