I am so excited to welcome Betsy Bird one of the authors of the amazing new book Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature to the blog today. This book is FANTASTIC! I loved it from start to finish and was so excited when I was asked to participate in the blog tour for the book. Without further adieu… Betsy Bird everyone!
What to Do When Your Hero Is Devoured
By Betsy Bird
There are lots of different trends in works of children’s and YA literature. Right now we’re seeing a definite uptick in whales in picture books. Then there were the vampires, angels, and zombies of YA novels past. Heck, there was one year there when sentient cheese was hip. (I’m not entirely kidding about that one.)
Then there’s the picture book trend where the protagonist gets eaten.
No. Really. There is.
It’s not a bad thing when you think about it. Consider that one of the most famous lines in Where the Wild Things Are is “We’ll eat you up, we love you so.” But parents have sort of a hard time dealing with it. To their mind it’s a very adult concept. Being devoured or devouring. Grown-ups have a way of reading a bit too much into that sort of thing. Never mind that even Little Red Riding Hood had to go through it. Of course she came out okay in the end. Not quite so many picture book heroes can say as much.
I mean Pierre (by Maurice Sendak) did pretty well. Hard not to love a story where the main character is so blasé about his imminent munchability. Then there were other books like Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau, Beware of the Frog by William Bee, Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis… I could go on. Even in 2014 I’ve seen books like Pardon Me by Daniel Miyares carrying on this noble tradition.
In Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature Julie Danielson, Peter Sieruta, and I consider the stories in children’s books that don’t get a lot of airtime elsewhere. Often we see perfectly nice adults treating works of children’s literature like it’s all fluffy bunnies and playtime. To combat this, our book sometimes has to delve into the less than wholly pleasant. Maybe Polly Dunbar put it best when she said, “Children’s stories need to prepare children for life. OK, we hope not to get eaten in real life, but everything isn’t soft and cute either.”
No doubt The Gingerbread Man might have something to say about that.
Happy reading everyone!!