Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Marvelous Mr. Cott

If you were to only ever read one book about books that most people call "children's books," (disclaimer:  I believe that the best children's books stand amongst the world's greatest literature, in every sense of the word--and then some--and, to quote the back cover of the book I'm going to mention at some point in this paragraph after this too-long sentence, these best children's books "are not meant only for children but are significant sources of delight and wisdom for grown-ups as well").  Alrighty.   The book?  "Pipers at the Gates of Dawn," by the amazing Jonathan Cott.  

If I were to write a dissertation, it would somehow have this book holding the center (is that how you say it? I will have to ask the brilliant Dr. Bev Hock how to say this, at a later date).  Mr. Cott has conversed and/or presented the work-behind-the-work of Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, William Stieg, Astrid Lindgren, Chinua Achebe, P. L. Travers, and the ICONIC Opies.  All in 301 pages.  Amahhhhzing, as Seth Rudetsky is wont to say.

I purchased the book in the summer of 1989, at Chanticleer, in Los Gatos. It was a few short weeks before a substantial earthquake shook the little bookstore in Los Gatos loose from it's foundations...and my life changed, with this book and that little shaken store and the riding that rootin' tootin' earthquake out in a fourth-grade catechism class I was teaching in Saratoga.  {But that is for later, that story...I suppose...and for now, I simply must say unto you that Jonathan Cott's masterful interpretation of 'the Wisdom of Children's Literature' is simply not to be missed, if you care about these things.}

And, while you are at it, check out "The Roses Race Around Her Name:  Poems from Fathers to Daughters"...but not from the West Springfield High School library (I still have their copy, unfortunately).  

It was years...sometime well into the '90s, surely...before I realized that Mr. Cott was responsible for two of the most seminal books in my life: one purchased at the soon-to-be-epicenter of an earthquake, another softly swiped in 1976 from my high school library, because I could simply not bear to part with it. 

Cheers to the marvelous Mr. Cott: long may he write.