Michael Dirda is America’s best critic of books for children. He is also one of its best critics of books of any kind. Dirda won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism as a writer for the Washington Post and is the author of five books, including Classics for Pleasure (Harcourt, 2007). He writes about Daniel Pinkwater in these excerpts from a list of “sure-fire winners” for children in his Readings: Essays & Literary Entertainments (Indiana University Press, 2000), a collection of his work for the Post:
The Big Orange Splot (Scholastic, 32 pp., $4.99, paperback, ages 2 and up): “What Ferdinand is to nonviolence, this book is to nonconformity. When a seagull drops a bucket of paint on an ordinary house, Mr. Plumbean is led to create the home of his dreams – to the consternation of his neighbors.”
Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars (Dutton, 248 pp., varied prices and editions, ages 8 and up). “If I could have written any children’s book in the world, this is the one I would choose. Two misfit kids wander into a rundown part of town, purchase the Klugarsh mind-control system from a mysterious shopkeeper, and then embark on a series of hilarious and surprising adventures. Boyhood dreams come true … Almost as good: The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death.”
Visit the Michael Dirda archive at the Washington Post at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/style/columns/dirdamichael/.
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.