November 22, 2015

Goodnight Stein

I've forgotten than I knew about Margaret Wise Brown's admiration of Gertrude Stein, and that Brown helped bring Stein and famed chillustrator Clement Hurd together to make The World Is Round. [I just made up that word: chillustrator. Actually, it turns out I didn't, but I am the first person to call Hurd one.]

Anyway, point is, I knew nothing. And Fordham English and Women's Studies professor Anne E. Fernald exposes the fascinating tip of the iceberg of my Brown/Stein ignorance in this excellent article about Stein's influence on these pioneers of early modern kids books:

We see, too, the strength of her [Brown's] conviction that writing for the very young could be great: "Here is an audience sensitive to the sheer elements of the English language.... Translate their playfulness and serious use of the sheer elements of language into the terms and understandings of a five-year-old and you have as intelligent an audience in rhythm and sound as the maddest poet's heart could desire."
Fernald delivers the tough love by pointing out that Stein's The World Is Round is not good. I would add, though, that the posthumously published To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays is a great celebration of words words words, and can be a blast to just pop open and read aloud. I wish Brown and Stein had lived long enough to hear it.

Or to see the awesome edition of To-Do published by Yale's Beinecke Library in 2011.

IN THE GREAT GREEN ROOM: MARGARET WISE BROWN AND MODERNISM [publicbooks.org via @maudnewton]
Previously: Gertrude Stein's Children's Book: The World Is Round
Gertrude Stein's other children's book, sort of
Buy the Yale/Beinecke editino of To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays for $25 or less [amazon]
We have the 2000 Green Integer paperback edition of To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays, which is very nice too [amazon]

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