In Leonard Marcus’ Minders of Make-Believe, the author of biographies on Ursula Nordstrom and Margaret K. McElderry, turns his depth of information about children’s books, to the entire history of children’s book publishing, from it’s earliest inception, until J.K. Rowling. The book was researched over the course of 14 years, and the information in it is exhaustive. I read it because I heard that if you are at all interested in children’s books and publishing, it’s required reading. And so it is.
Marcus outlines the nearly all-female cast of children’s books as if they themselves were characters. One curious note: the cover illustration shows a man weilding a sword before a dragon. Since most of the “minders” were women, I’m not sure why a woman wouldn’t be holding the sword, but maybe that particular “minder” is Marcus himself.
My gripe with the book is that Marcus has never met a short sentence he liked, or a simple word that he thought worthy of using. I’m all for highbrow writing. I know what antidisestablishmentism means. But I warn you: you will be re-reading many a sentence to ensure you have understood it’s meaning correctly. Because by the time you get to the end of the sentence, you will have forgotten what the beginning was, or your eyes may have glassed over trying to decipher large and uncommon verbiage. The only good news is that by the time you get to the end of the first chapter, you will likely be so used to his lengthy prose, that the remainder of the book will be easier.
Nevertheless, Marcus’ work is jam-packed with information and because I’m sure I’ve missed some of it, I will probably read it again, though not any time soon. I think my eyes and my brain need to take a little break with something relatively simple. Tolstoy in the original Russian, perhaps.