Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Minders of Make-Believe by Leonard S. Marcus

"What Shall the Children Read?"

That's the question, referencing the title of a 1939 book by Laura E. Richards, asked at the onset of Leonard S. Marcus' historical record of children's book publishing in America. Throughout history people have attempted to answer, and the funny thing is, no consensus has ever been reached. Opinions abound.

"What Shall the Children Read?" The only answer I know for sure after reading Minders of Make-Believe is this: Not this book.

Well, not the children anyway. But grown-up lovers of children's literature need to carve out a chunk of their allotted reading time and delve in. Starting with colonial America and ending at Hogwarts, Minders of Make-Believe covers books (and book covers, ba-dum-dum), publishers, authors, editors, printers, and pretty much anything else involved in children's literature.

The research is exhaustive, and I found myself wishing I could have been a fly on the wall or a worm in the book or...well, I found myself absorbing all of it and hoping for more. From stories of classics that were almost passed over to the behind the scenes work of editors to the stories of how authors got their start. I found all of it fascinating.

Watching how children's book publishing has changed over the years and how our culture, education, politics, parents...and oh yeah, kids...have influenced the industry makes me wonder what the future holds for children's books. But most exciting is the fact that we won't need to wait for Volume II. We'll get to watch it happen.

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