Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lacy Underpinnings and the Children’s Author: Guest Post on the Wild Things! Blog Tour

Last Tuesday, Wild Things! became commercially available, and children's literature aficionados
everywhere are in for a treat. And there's lots "beyond the book" -- checkout the blog for exclusive videos and other content cut from the print version. Today, Betsy Bird, of Fuse #8 fame, pops in to give us the nitty gritty behind the woman who gave us that child minder we all aspire to be, Mary Poppins. 
Lacy Underpinnings and the Children’s Author

Recently I watched the film Saving Mr. Banks with some friends and, I’ll admit it, I was scared of what I’d see.  I’ve been burned too many times, man.  Children’s authors inevitably end up portrayed on film one of two ways.  Either they’re complete and utter burnouts and wastes of flesh (see: Young Adult and The Door in the Floor) or they’re ootsy cutesy adorable types, all fluffy bunnies and fairy dust (see: Miss Potter and Finding Neverland).  They don’t usually have any depth to them, so I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.  In Saving Mr. Banks the author P.L. Travers is rendered a three-dimensional human being with humor and warmth (thanks in large part to a performance by Emma Thompson that I once heard described as “the spoonful of medicine that makes the sugar go down”). 
The film got some things about the life of Travers right and some things wrong, but that’s to be expected.  Still, it was funny watching the movie knowing what I know about the woman.  You see, we have a section on Travers in our book Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature.  You look at a film like Saving Mr. Banks and what do you see?  An uptight contrarian.  A woman who’ll put a huge Mickey Mouse doll in the corner until he “learn[s] some subtlety”.  Few would watch the film and be aware of some of the stories in her life.
You see, Ms. Travers is one of the honored children’s authors to occupy space in our Sex & Death chapter.  I kid you not.  And which of the two applies to her?  Is it sex or is it death?  It’s sex, baby.  Of course it is.
P.L. Travers lived an adventurous life.  When she wasn’t acting in theater troupes she was writing sexy stories for an Australian newspaper.  I kid you not.  The woman behind Mary Poppins wrote some very saucy stuff.  And heck, I’d write it down for you here but I’ve got to leave you some reason to read my book, don’t I?

It’s not as though Travers was the only author for children with that kind of writing at her beck and call, of course.  Consider the case of Wanda Gag.  Perhaps you are aware of the Bohemian author/illustrator’s best-known book Millions of Cats.  Well, Ms. Gag was quite the person to know.  Bobbed hair and scandalous diary entries and all.  And when it came to sex, Gag knew what she was talking about.  Best of all, her journals were published and some of those entries were impressive.  I’m thinking particularly of an encounter she had on a crowded New York subway that reads like something out of late night Cinemax.

I sincerely doubt we’ll ever see a biopic of Wanda Gag, but then again maybe I’m wrong.  Just a couple weeks ago they announced that the director McG would be directing a movie on the life of Shel Silverstein.  And believe me when I say THAT guy would make for a spicy film indeed.  In fact, everyone in our Sex & Death chapter would be worth reading up on.  But don’t take my word for it.  Best that you check the book out for yourself.
Photo of Wanda Gag from

P.L. Travers playing Tatiana in Midsummer's Night Dream from wikipedia

Who else is going hunting for Wanda Gag's journals? Thanks, Betsy, for letting us know all has NEVER been as tame as it might seem, behind the scenes of children's literature.

And, for reading to the end, you can enter to win a copy of this phenomenal book. I'll draw the winner September 1.

More stops on the Wild Things! Blog tour:
August 5: 100 Scope Notes
August 6: There's A Book
August 8: Guys Lit Wire
Week of August 11: Book Riot
August 11: GreenBeanTeenQueen
August 14: Wendy on the Web
August 18: Into the Wardrobe
August 19: Books 4 Your Kids
August 20: The Book Nest
August 21: Random Chalk Talk
August 22: Children's Corner

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