Did anyone else read this review by Laura Miller of Leonard Marcus’s Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children’s Literature? I haven’t read the book, but I have read Leonard Marcus’ edited collection of Ursula Nordstrum’s letters, Dear Genius, and his biography of Margaret Wise Brown, Awakened by the Moon, both of which I found fascinating. What little I know about the history of children’s book publishing industry in New York City I learned from those two books.
So I was excited to see that Marcus has a new book out and read the review eagerly. And, well, it was my least favourite kind of review, one that bitches about the book under review not being the book they were hoping for:
What probably strikes many people as the most fascinating aspect of the history of children’s literature in America—the children, and the literature itself—takes a back seat to editors and reviewers, printers and magazines, libraries and bookstores.
Lucky Miller to have her finger on the pulse of what strikes people as the most fascinating aspect of the history of children’s literature in the US. Even with the modifier “probably” she seems pretty certain. But whether her supposition is true or not—and I have no idea how you’d prove it—it’s a bizarre thing to complain about given the book’s subtitle: “Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children’s Literature”. Seems to me that the words “entrepreneurs” and “shaping” are a pretty clear indication that Marcus’s book is going to be about the children’s book publishing industry and the “editors and reviewers, printers and magazines, libraries and bookstores” who made it happen.
Miller says the book will mainly be of interest to “historians and people in the industry”. I’m guilty of both those charges, being a publishing geek who’s part of the (broader) children’s publishing industry, as well as an ex-academic who did history, I am this book’s target audience.
Like I said, I have not read Minders of Make-Believe. Perhaps it is as off the mark as Miller claims; I’ll find out when I read it. But I will not find fault with the book for doing exactly what it sets out to do.