“I don’t write for children,”Maurice Sendak scoffed in his final interview. “I write — and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!’” Some generations earlier, J.R.R. Tolkien vehemently asserted that there is no such thing as writing “for children” and C.S. Lewiscautioned against treating children as a different species, while E.B. White saw them as “the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers” among our own species.
With this lens, on the heels of the year’s best science booksand best art books, here are the year’s most intelligent and imaginative books published “for children” but immeasurably rewarding for all readers.
1. ENORMOUS SMALLNESS
“In a Cummings poem,” Susan Cheever wrote in her spectacular biography of E. E. Cummings,“the reader must often pick his way toward comprehension, which comes, when it does, in a burst of delight and recognition.” Such a burst is what rewards the reader, whatever his or her age, inEnormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings(public library) — an uncommonly delightful picture-book celebration of Cummings’s life by Brooklyn-based poetMatthew Burgess, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo (the artist behind the wonderful alphabet book Take Away the A)./.../