When I first started this blog (unbelievably almost a year ago now) and created the Overwhelming List that's in some ways its raison d'être, I hadn't really given much thought at all to children's authors. In the earliest version of the list, I included a few writers who are best known for their children's books (Noel Streatfeild, E. Nesbit, Eleanor Farjeon), but my focus was clearly on the fact that they also wrote novels for adults. Only one writer from that list—Alison Uttley—was really primarily a children's author (and even she, I've since learned, wrote a couple of adult novels as well). I included no writers who exclusively wrote for children.
Gradually, I started to include authors who wrote what I dimly regarded as "fiction that could be enjoyed by children and adults alike." People like P. L. Travers and Eleanor Graham. Then, as my resistance began to weaken, I included Elinor Brent-Dyer and Angela Brazil, who seemed just too influential to exclude. And now, finally, my resistance—which was certainly based more on ignorance than any real bias—has thoroughly dissipated, and I have a series of four updates coming your way that are made up entirely of authors who wrote more or less exclusively for children.
Apart from how interesting many of these writers are or may turn out to be, there is one very big reason I'm excited about these four posts. Everyone reading this blog must already be aware of my passion for the colorful, elegant, artful dust covers of the heyday of the middlebrow. And as soon as I started digging a little deeper into the kinds of books sold by wonderful small publishers like Girls Gone By and Fidra Books, I knew I could hardly resist going whole hog into exploring the genre. Whether I'll enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoy perusing their covers remains to be seen (though I have two Brent-Dyers, an Antonia Forest, and an Alison Uttley on my "to read" shelf at the moment, so perhaps I'll know soon!), but regardless, the covers, some cheesy, some beautiful, and some a combination of the two, are irresistible.
I should point out that, since I am still primarily interested in fiction—longish works with real stories and at least somewhat developed characters—I am still excluding some no doubt brilliantly talented and personally fascinating women who specialized in picture books, alphabet books, etc. for very young children. So, alas, still no Beatrix Potter on my list.
|Although it's later than my time frame, Aiken's tale|
of a haunted house that ensnares residents including
Henry James and E. F. Benson sounds irresistible
Happily, because children's books are highly collectible, images of dust covers and even of some of the lesser-known authors are more readily available than for many of the writers I discuss here. So, if you're not fond of pictures, these posts will be a disappointment to you, I'm afraid...