The celebrated children’s book author and illustrator reflects on writing and reading children’s literature from her long, unique perspective.
During her successful career, Babbitt (The Devil’s Storybooks, 2012, etc.), who died in 2016, earned a Newbery Honor Medal and the E.B. White Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters. This compilation of 18 chronologically arranged speeches and articles spans the years between 1970 and 2004. During this time, she describes herself as a “little dog” barking with the “big dogs” of the adult literary world who routinely relegate children’s literature to a lesser status. Babbitt suggests that the “tangible difference” between adult and children’s literature resides in the latter’s “Happy Ending,” and she refutes the “widespread American belief that children are irrelevant.” Writing in 1973, she condemns American children’s novels as “patently artificial” and “sweet beyond bearing,” urging writers to reflect on what we have “in common with the rest of the world.” She visits and revisits the universal pattern of what Joseph Campbell called the “separation, adventure, and return” path common in children’s fantasy (including her own). A children’s story “doesn’t deny the dark; it simply reaffirms the light.” Wary of those who would use children’s fiction to teach social responsibility, Babbitt adamantly asserts that the purpose of reading stories is to give children pleasure. Aware of her own aging, she peppers her later essays with amusing autobiographical anecdotes, recalled vividly and fondly. Writing with passion and insight, the author’s voice remains direct, incisive, witty, and true as she draws widely from the canon of children’s and adult literature. While some of her observations may be dated, most remain relevant as she astutely holds fast to the importance of giving children honest, hopeful, and entertaining stories in a changing world.
A must for children’s literature professionals and aficionados.