Minders Of Make-Believe

Leonard S. Marcus

Houghton Mifflin


Summer 2008

This wonderfully well-written and assembled history of children’s book publishing in America will prove indispensable to all those making a serious study of the genre, but is also fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in bookish affairs.
For me the most rivetting passages in the book fell within the first two-thirds. During the early history it was a joy to come across names familiar to me from the time when I did my research into the friendship between Melville and Hawthorne. This part of the book describes, for example, the first moves of librarians to separate out children’s literature from the rest of the stock. As the story moves into the 1920s and 1930s Marcus is good at pointing out the degree to which children’s literature had separated itself off from the main culture of modernism.
Several times during my reading I found myself wanting to turn to a few pages of illustrative plates giving portraits of some of the key players in this fascinating story. Margaret Wise Brown is described as “the charismatic ash-blond editor with film-star good looks” – it would have been helpful to be able to turn to a photo to corroborate this description 🙂
Marcus finds room for some fascinating detail regarding the editors who turned down Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War. The last two decades covered – the 1980s and 1990s – are given brushstroke treatment in comparison with the in-depth analysis accorded the earlier years, but that didn’t bother me in the least.
Meticulously indexed and referenced, this is a work of high scholarship written for the general reader.

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