Children's Literature Review: Excerpts from Reviews, Criticism, and Commentary on Books for Children and Young People ed. by Ann Block and Carolyn Riley, and: Something About the Author: Facts and Pictures about Contemporary Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young People by Anne Commire (review)
- Studies in American Fiction
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 4, Number 2, Autumn 1976
- pp. 238-239
- View Citation
- Additional Information
238Reviews such lists is difficult, however, when the collection as a whole manages to maintain a high level of interest. Bassett's headnotes about each critic are brief but accurate. Michigan State UniversityLinda W. Wagner Block, Ann and Carolyn Riley, eds. Children's Literature Review: Excerpts from Reviews, Criticism, and Commentary on Books for Children and Young People. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1976. 201 pp. Cloth: $25.00. Commire, Anne. Something About the Author: Facts and Pictures about Contemporary Authors and Illustrators of Books forYoung People. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1976. 221 pp. Cloth: $25.00. Nearly 10,000 new or reissued children's book titles were published last year, and the amount ofnew material for children has been increasing geometrically for the past decade. An editor for a national reviewing publication recently said that each week he reads between two and three hundred children's books. Experienced librarians, in command of their fields, often conceed, in private, their inability to sort through the mountain of material necessary to make their acquisition requests. Criticism and scholarship in children's literature has also burgeoned during the past ten years in response to this tremendous outpouring of children's books and the concommitantneed forcritical tools to handle them. Both of these volumes reflect this growth and the fact that, with increasing frequency, critical opinion is being based and choices ultimately are being made on the basis of reviews and prior knowledge of an author's or illustrator's work. Neither of these two works would be neccessary were it not for the impossibility for many researchers, librarians, and teachers to keep up with the field. Doing so, in fact, has become like one of the labors of Psyche. The Children's Literature Reviewis the first volume in a projected, open-ended series. It attempts to present, through edited summaries from reviews and othercritical sources, a representative picture of what reviewers are saying about a children's book author and his works. The format for each entry is to offer a few brief, biographical facts (all too brief) followed by a series of general statements about the author's importance. The latter can run to ratherlengthy, acute assessments ofan author's work, or they can read like theblurbs that used to be run for foreign films in lieu of coming attractions (the book vacillates between those two extremes). Finally, each reviewed work by the author is given at least one reviewer's comment. The reviewers' remarks tend to be edited for their assessments of the book's utility, appropriateness, and value. The sections of the reviews we have here would probably be the parts we would check, too, but we do not have, because of the space limitations, the detail or the accretions of argument that have led the critic to his judgment. In the case of short articles this is less important than in the case of excerpted sections of books where a much broader thesis may beinformingthe critic's judgment, and this over-view does not find its way into the fragment we are given. One of Block and Riley's criteria for selection oftheir excerpts is"Will today's student, teacher, or critic find this pertinent to today's needs?" This purpose is stated broadly enough to include many "needs" and, indeed, it does perform a very useful service of making a wealth of critical material availablz for quick reference. It is helpful for getting Studies in American Fiction239 a grasp of recent authors of children's books, among them Joan Aiken, Lloyd Alexander, Roald Dahl, Meindert Dejong, Paula Fox, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Virginia Hamilton, Nat Hentoff, Madeline L'Engle, Maurice Sendak, I. B. Singer, and E. B. White. Some"masters" have found their way into the book: A. A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, and Edward Lear. There should be more time devoted in the text to these acknowledged classics of children's literature lest we sacrifice what is important about the past to the overwhelming"needs" of the "present". I think one of the flaws of the book is that it doesn't balance established authors and works with more contemporary ones to give the reader...