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The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown

illus. by Sarah Jacoby. 48p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062393449.
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RedReviewStarGr 1–5—Legendary New York Public librarian Anne Carroll Moore would have probably called this provocative biography "truck"—in other words, "the wrong kind of book." And while it is true that the book is unorthodox, one could argue that its subject is equally so. At the onset, readers learn that this picture book is longer than most—a deliberate 42 pages to document a life of 42 years—and that Brown grew up in a house in the woods with many pets including a dog, two squirrels, and 36 rabbits. When one of these rabbits died, she skinned it and wore its pelt around her neck. But the important thing shared on the second page and repeated on the last is that "she wrote books"—more than 100. Jacoby fancifully shows little bunnies reading and listening to some of Brown's most popular titles at the library, a few of which are summarized as well. An inordinate number of pages are devoted to Moore's disapproval and refusal to recognize Brown's groundbreaking contributions to the field of children's literature. The delightful, whimsical illustrations are rendered in watercolor, Nupastel, and Photoshop and portray a young, blond, energetic Brown chasing her dog, swimming naked, buying a cartload of fresh flowers, and admiring the sea from the bow of the ship meant to deliver her to a new, exciting life. Sadly, "Lives don't work the way most books do. They can end suddenly, as fast as you kick your leg in the air."
VERDICT An important, groundbreaking biography inspired by Brown's legacy.

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