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Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature Hardcover – May 7, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This broad survey distills the history of American children's publishing and librarianship, from colonial times to British interloper Harry Potter, including children's periodicals, major publishers and changes in printing technology. While Marcus, a veteran historian and critic of children's publishing (Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon), gives founders like editor Mary Mapes Dodge due respect, he is most in his element chronicling the 20th century: the influence of librarian Anne Carroll Moore, the educational reforms of Lucy Sprague Mitchell, the foresightedness of Harper editor Ursula Nordstrom and the careers of author-illustrators like Maurice Sendak. Devotees of prewar classics may be disappointed that Marcus devotes just two pages to Baum and Denslow; that he says W.E.B. Du Bois's groundbreaking The Brownies' Book failed to reach its audience; and that he skips whole generations almost entirely (e.g., 1905–1918). Marcus succeeds best at discussing the subjects of his past research, including Children's Book Week and the Golden Books series; to his credit, he also builds on Nancy Larrick's work on how white middle-class prejudices determined children's books' lack of racial and ethnic diversity. Drawing upon Horn Book Magazine articles and behind-the-scenes accounts of feuds and trends, Marcus's history is ideal for industry insiders. (May 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Chock-full of interesting facts such as when the first printing press was established in America (1639) and how the first children's book followed 50 years later, this intriguing book grabs readers from the start. Learning about the origins of the publishing houses and the legends that populated them is fascinating. Lovers of children's books will delight in this rich history as Marcus looks at such varied aspects as the impact of television on children's books, the beginnings of famous series such as the Landmark Books and the Hardy Boys, and how Maurice Sendak went from being a member of the display staff at F.A.O. Schwarz to getting his first contract with Ursula Nordstrom at Harper & Row. There is an overwhelming amount of information in this book but its inspired chronological organization saves the day. This readable and entertaining survey deserves a place on the bookshelves of all who work in the children's book field.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (May 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395674077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395674079
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #844,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James Hiller VINE VOICE on June 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having been a schoolteacher now for the past eighteen years, children's literature has been a mainstay of my profesion. Choosing the literature you read and use with your children is of prime importance. Most of the time, I elect to use books that are not only entertaining, but rich with lessons or thoughts that inspire deeper thinking. "Minders of Make Believe" is a treasure trove of history behind children's literature in our country, and the debate between instructive and entertaining.

Leonard Marcus' interesting recount of the history of children's literature literally begins with the founding of our country, and the first "books" produced for children, starting with "The New England Primer". Two camps formed; should our kiddie lit teach or amuse? Marcus traces the development through the years, including some fascinating information on authors like Dr. Seuss (and his revolutionary Cat in the Hat), and Maurice Sendak.

I've always chosen books that essentially come from both camps. If I am going to spend time with a story or book in my class, it has to have some "meat" to it's tale to make it worth my time. It must also be interesting enough to children for them to want to devour that meat. After reading Marcus' fascinating book, I don't think I'll ever feast on another children's book in exactly the same way again!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a review certainly, but it is also a look at how librarians fit within Marcus's take on the publishing industry, past and present. When you are aware of your own personal worldview, it makes sense to interpret the books that fall into your lap with that view at the forefront of your mind. FYI.

Beware setting yourself up as a guardian of the moral and cultural growth of children, for lo thou shalt be kicked in the rear historically as a result. As a children's librarian there's a wide swath of literature out there that looks at literature for kids from a historical perspective. Librarians, as it happens, are often very good at writing books about the things that they love. If they happen to love titles for the short set (and whatever you do, don't call it kid lit!) so be it. And thus it has been and thus it would continue to be if it weren't for other scholars in the field like Leonard Marcus. Mr. Marcus has, in a sense, made a career out of filling in the gaps that librarians have left in the field. Examinations of the Little Golden Books as with his book, Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way or the collected letters of editor Ursula Nordstrom in Dear Genius. And so I find myself in a mighty odd position as I read his newest title, "Minders of Make-Believe". I cannot help but recognize that children's librarianship as it exists today has changed significantly since the days of Anne Carroll Moore and Frances Clark Sayers.
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Format: Hardcover
If you are interested in literature, and history, and writing for children, and reading by children, and life, you should like this book. I did. Mr. Marcus has provided historical context for the industry of children's literature. In so doing, he has provided a place in the larger scheme of things, for all of those who support the making of literature which children, and wise adults, may enjoy. Thank you Mr. Marcus
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Format: Hardcover
This book shows you decades of insider gossip from the children's book publishing world, featuring a cast of all-white, east coast, leftist fundamentalist women.

If you are wondering why the Newbery award-winning books do not reflect your family's values, this book will explain it.

If you are wondering why African-American main characters were absent from children's literature for so long, this book will explain the "You're only 20% of the population. How can I be concerned with you?" reason. (p. 281)

If you are wondering how east coast elites responded to the Reagan presidency, this book will show you the hand-wringing and melodrama.

If you are wondering about the deep-seated prejudices of librarians and book-mavens (anti-non-fiction, anti-boy, anti-story, anti-popular, anti-minority), this book will paint the grim picture for you.

Still, it was a well-written book, and the reader grows to know (if not love) the main movers and shakers.
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