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Wild Things – Bruce Handy

Wild Things – The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult.

In 1690, the dour New England Primer, thought to be the first American children’s book, was published in Boston. Offering children gems of advice such as “Strive to learn” and “Be not a dunce,” it was no fun at all. So how did we get from there to “Let the wild rumpus start”? And now that we’re living in a golden age of children’s literature, what can adults get out of reading Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon, or Charlotte’s Web and Little House on the Prairie?

In Wild Things, Bruce Handy revisits the classics of American childhood, from fairy tales to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and explores the backstories of their creators, using context and biography to understand how some of the most insightful, creative, and witty authors and illustrators of their times created their often deeply personal masterpieces. Along the way, Handy learns what The Cat in the Hatsays about anarchy and absentee parenting, which themes link The Runaway Bunny and Portnoy’s Complaint, and why Ramona Quimby is as true an American icon as Tom Sawyer or Jay Gatsby. It’s a profound, eye-opening experience to reencounter books that you once treasured after decades apart. A clear-eyed love letter to the greatest children’s books and authors, from Louisa May Alcott and L. Frank Baum to Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Mildred D. Taylor, and E.B. White, Wild Things will bring back fond memories for readers of all ages, along with a few surprises.

Editorial Reviews

This worthy, engaging owner’s manual on boys aged two to 22 is written from a reserved, supportive Christian perspective. With five sons between them, the authors (both therapists) view testosterone-fueled shenanigans with droll humor and encourage parents to remain calm when upsetting things inevitably occur. The authors aptly demonstrate their view that “[t]he older a boy gets, the more he needs from his caregivers.” With real-life examples both mundane and dramatic, they discuss characteristics frequently shared among boys of similar ages and provide guidance on what boys need most during those stages. Practical direction (e.g., give young “Explorers” “space to roam”), along with encouragement to be open and honest when parenting, is constant. While some suggestions (e.g., monitoring MySpace accounts or backpack inspections) may alarm some at first, they are tempered by the authors’ admonition to “keep a watchful eye” and inform sons you’ll be doing so. The work effectively straddles William Sears’s attachment parenting and the more openly authoritative style of John Rosemond. In a crowded field, this work is highly recommended for all public libraries and for collections supporting teachers and the helping professions.–Douglas C. Lord, Connecticut State Lib., Hartford –Library Journal, February 2009

“As a pediatrician I see parents everyday wrestling with how to understand and guide their sons. If you’re looking for practical parenting skills these pages are filled with sound advice. The authors break down each stage of a boy’s journey and it is filled with effective, simple tips that you can implement now. This book is one of the best parenting resources I’ve seen. ” — Dr Linda Brady, Pediatrician, Nashville “I loved this book! As a single mom for the past seven years, I couldn’t wait to dive into David and Stephen’s timely work. This mom of two wild things and two softer things needed their roadmap and driving instructions for the dangerous journey we are traveling. Bless you both for the wisdom you have given to me. May all our boys be nurtured and loved until they are the honorable men God intended for them to become.” –Angela Thomas, Speaker and Best-selling author of My Single Mom Life. “David and Stephen have once again demonstrated the beauty and power of fraternal collaboration in their newest book, Mentoring Boys. If I didn’t know otherwise, I would assume these two guys were grand-dads, not young dads, when I consider the depth of wisdom and breadth of practical applications captured between the covers of this volume. How I wish I had this book when my son was younger, yet the same principles of loving well are applicable from generation to generation. If you want hope and not hype, but this book. It is a joy to unequivocally endorse it, and I look forward to putting it in the hands of many dads, and moms as well. ” — Scotty Smith, Founding Pastor Christ Community Church “God has entrusted a unique and powerful gift to Dave Thomas to understand the complex language of a boy’s heart and help interpret it for us who love them. This is an important book about a very important subject.”

by Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman

From the Back Cover

Born to be . . . wild! A boy’s endless imagination, hunger for adventure, and passionate spirit are matched only by his deep desire to be affirmed, esteemed, and loved. Yet over the past few decades, our culture has adopted a model of parenting and educating boys that doesn’t affirm, celebrate, or embrace a boy’s hunger, passion, or wildness but rather seeks to tame it. As a result, many parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors find themselves frustrated, confused, and wearied by boys’ behavior. The truth is, boys don’t need to be tamed-they need to be understood, loved, challenged, and encouraged. Wild Things helps parents, teachers, mentors, and others understand and explore the hearts, minds, and ways of boys-and the vital role that parents and caregivers play on the journey to manhood. Based on clinical research and filled with practical tips and suggestions, Wild Things gives fresh insight and much-needed encouragement on the road to raising boys.

About the Author

Stephen James is a private practice psychotherapist in Nashville, Tennessee, where he provides individual, couples, and group therapy as well as organizational and leadership consulting. He has coauthored several books, including How to Hit a Curveball, Grill the Perfect Steak, and Become a Real Man. –This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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