When Grown-Ups Reread Children’s Classics

Download Audio

With guest host Sacha Pfeiffer.

From “Goodnight Moon” to “Charlotte’s Web,” how children’s literature can still speak to adults.

Children's titles mentioned in Bruce Handy's book "Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult."
Children's titles mentioned in Bruce Handy's book "Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult."

Some books are synonymous with childhood. Dr. Seuss. Curious George. Goodnight Moon. Charlotte’s Web. But what happens when we re-read beloved children’s books as adults? Sometimes they’re a let-down. Sometimes a revelation. This hour, On Point: the joy of reading children’s literature from the perspective of adulthood. Plus, an update as Houston scrambles to shelter an estimated 30,000 people fleeing the city’s floods. -- Sacha Pfeiffer. 


Bruce Handy, Contributing Editor for Vanity Fair. Author of Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult. (@henryfingjames)

From The Reading List

The New York Times: A Grown-Up’s Travels Down the Rabbit Hole of Children’s Literature — "Handy selects a few titles to represent each age, from babydom on up to whatever it is children become before they become us. Some of these are from his own childhood, some are books he read to his (still growing) children, and some seem chosen to answer a curiosity about what so-called girl books really are. This not-quite-method leaves the book occasionally feeling dutiful — but mostly not. “Wild Things” doesn’t have much of an argument to make other than its premise that we should take children’s literature seriously, which I think many people already do, and yet the book succeeds wonderfully, not so much as an argument but as an eccentric essay, and an emanation of spirit."

Newsday: Q&A: Bruce Handy Discusses ‘Wild Things,’ His Book On Children’s Literature And Adult Readers — "I knew the focus of each chapter I wanted to write, whether it was a genre like animal books or focusing on a specific author like Maurice Sendak or Beverly Cleary, and I knew I wanted to end with a chapter dealing with kids’ books on death that would focus on “Charlotte’s Web.” At some point I began to realize that there was an age gradation and some kind of increasing consciousness about the world."

USA Today: The Joy of Kids' Books, When You're All Grown Up — "Though it’s a fun journey, it’s a little unclear whom this book is for: Handy is an editor at Vanity Fair, not a children’s literature scholar, and it sometimes shows. He hasn’t chosen to include the opinions of any children other than his own, and a side consequence of his endearingly conversational tone is occasional thoughtlessness, as when he broaches the topic of why boys turn away from what they consider “girls’ books” but then aborts the discussion, saying it’s beyond him to explain."

This program aired on August 29, 2017.


More from On Point

Listen Live