Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy showed up on my radar through a footnote in another book that I read last year. (Just one more reminder that I am 100% a nerd especially in regards to children's literature.) Handy splits the chapters into different books considered 'classics' of children's literature and he explains why they've had a lasting effect and endured as long as they have. He makes an argument that there is a reason books become classics but there is also a clarity in realizing that a difference of opinion will most certainly occur. A good example is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I know this is a classic and it is still read by kids and parents now but I have never (and probably never will) consider this one a favorite. In that same vein, there were quite a few books that he mentioned that I had not heard of or had never read and I promptly added them to my TRL. (You may recognize some of the titles if you decide to read this book.) One of the best things about Wild Things was the organization of the chapters. It's quite obvious that Handy has not only done thorough research on the topic but has a real passion for the topic. This made it have an academic feel which I really appreciated. Interspersed throughout the book are personal anecdotes about the books he loved as a child as well as his experience introducing books to his children. (Get those tissues out, parents with small children. It's fairly sentimental.) I doubt this would be of as much interest to someone not in the field of children's literature but if you're looking for inspiration about what books to read to your kids at night then this would be an excellent source for you. 9/10
What's Up Next: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
What I'm Currently Reading: The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham (Coincidentally, I'm watching Midsomer Murders which is based off of the book series.)
A book set in Mexico.
I'm guessing I bought Silver Saddles when I was in fifth grade, maybe fourth, so in the late 1950s. It's a horse story, you know, so that was right there enough to attract me. But this book had something extra that made it stick in my mind from then right through another almost 60 years: It's set in Mexico and there's a whole lot of Spanish in it.
I lost my original copy years and years ago but it was one of those things that I just had to replace. A few years ago I found a copy on Amazon and added it to the collection, but I didn't read it right away. Las Posadas seemed a good reason to spend an afternoon getting reacquainted with an old friend.
Flint Ryder's dad has been given a palomino quarter horse stallion, Cimarron, and the horse needs to be brought from Torreon, Mexico to the Ryder ranch 300 miles away. Fifteen-year-old Flint beats out his brother Bill for the job of picking up the horse, then riding him overland back to the ranch. It's a week-long adventure filled with danger and excitement, including murderous bandits and a rattlesnake and a rodeo.
Whether such a story was plausible when it was written in 1943, I don't know. It seems pretty far-fetched today that a teenager not yet old enough to drive would be sent out with a machete and a rifle to deliver a highly valuable horse, but it was a fun read when I wasn't old enough to think about plausibility. Now it's kind of eye-rolling.
So was the racism. It's a patronizing, colonial, kind racism, but racism all the same. There's little doubt that blond, blue-eyed Flint will outsmart and outfight and outride any Mexican because, well, because. I didn't see it that way as a kid, but well, we live and learn. I doubt Silver Saddles would make it onto any current recommended reading list without plenty of disclaimers!
Quirky characters and a rather zany storyline mark “Creature Keepers and the Hijacked Hydro-Hide”, the first book in the eponymous middle-grade series. Jordan Grimsley and his sister Abbie arrive in their late grandfather’s dilapidated house in the Florida Everglades during spring break because their father inherited it and intends to renovate it and turn it into a bed and breakfast. However, what they expect to be a boring two weeks turns into the adventure of a lifetime when Jordan discovers that cryptids—those legendary creatures sometimes sighted but nevertheless shrouded in mystery—are real. Not only that, but they need his help!
With somewhat immature humor and delightfully implausible situations, this story will doubtless appeal to upper elementary and middle school readers. Illustrations enhance the allure, and the characters range from funny to evil and from young to old. The predominant themes are friendship, loyalty, and perseverance, which undergird the madcap yet endearing plot. Overall, “The Hijacked Hydro-Hide” forms a fun and interesting basis for this series.