Three decades after the publication of Lanes's Down the Rabbit Hole (S & S, 1976; o.p.), this veteran observer of children's literature has issued its sequel, a patchwork of pieces ranging in length from brief reviews to longer historical and critical essays, all informed by the author's research into the history of children's literature and her wide-ranging interests. This volume covers picture books and biography, artists as varied as Beatrix Potter, Edward Gorey, Tomi Ungerer, William Steig, Margo Zemach, and, in one of the strongest essays, Maurice Sendak. Most of the pieces were originally published elsewhere, though the original date and place of publication are not always given. For example, the fascinating account of the correspondence between Hans Christian Andersen and Boston editor Horace Scudder, first published in The Horn Book in 1989, appears without acknowledgement. Most of the pieces seem to date back to the 1970s and '80s, with only a few from the '90s. Scholars of children's literature who wish to build on Lanes's work will be frustrated by this lack of contextual dating, as well as by the absence of source citations for her many intriguing and relevant quotes. Still, this collection makes enjoyable reading for anyone interested in children's literature.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
With lilting voice and great enjoyment, Lanes brings readers behind the scenes where Maurice Sendak sits at home sketching, Beatrix Potter marries and leaves literature behind in favor of sheep, Hans Christian Andersen writes letters for years to a young editor he wishes to ignore. Lanes doesn't idealize childhood, but she clearly relishes her job of writing about children's books and their creators. Her enthusiasm is catching, her essays and reviews short and sweet. Several are 30 years old but still fresh. One awkward chapter about political correctness draws a misguided line between literature and propaganda rather than between complexity and over-simplicity. If Harry Potter receives more enthusiasm than the likes of Ezra Jack Keats and Ernest Shepard, Lanes makes up for it with her good humor and her placement of children's literature in the greater world of Henry James and Picasso. Art gets its full due. Lanes brings us deliciously closer to the works and process of Ursula Nordstrom (chapter title: "Some Editor"), William Steig, E.B. White, and others in personal musings full of both romance and pragmatism.