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Don't Tell the Grown-Ups


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These essays cite the popularity of certain authors, including Edith Nesbit and Kate Greenaway, as proof that children prefer books that feature disobedient characters and challenge conventional adult points of view. ``As important for the critical standards she sets as for those she lauds in children's books, this book by Lurie eyes with exemplary independence a genre too often sentimentalized,'' said PW. (June)

While not a comprehensive history of the unorthodox in children's books, the 16 essays collected here (some from the New York Review of Books and Children's Literature ) do offer witty and illuminating insights into the classics they explore. Chapters on folktales, Greenaway, Nesbit, Barrie, and Milne are especially rich. Lurie may win new readers for Shardik , T.H. White, and William Mayne. Essays on Mrs. Clifford's and F.M. Ford's little-known stories unconvincingly stretch the ``subversive'' to include these writers' very private, and even unbalanced, use of unconventional material, while Chapters 3 and 4, on adult books, have crept in on a subversive mission of their own. Although the theme announced in the subtitle is not so strong a unifying thread as one might wish, the book is worth having for its careful, reasonably feminist, and often fascinating readings of some enduring texts.-- Patricia Dooley, Univ. of Washington Lib. Sch., Seattle

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