Reading in the wild: "Wild Things" & children's literature

Reading children's books is not always child's play. Indeed, studying literature specifically aimed for children can yield priceless insights into culture on a broad level and emotion on a personal level. 

That's Brucy Handy's thesis in the entertaining Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult.

For example, Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat has much to say about anarchy and absentee parenting... there is a darker side to The Little House series than is usually acknowledged... and the genius of Beverly Cleary is her focus on real kids feeling real emotions. 

Handy does not explore every great work of children's literature, but he does go beneath and beyond what you think you know about many classics, which in turn will lead you to reconsider everything from Goodnight, Moon to the titular Maurice Sendak "Where the Wild Things Are."

Worth every chapter and word, Wild Things does offer a dangerous prospect, however. It will make you want to turn your back on adult offerings and re-read everything in the children's area once again.

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