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Pipers at the Gates of Dawn

The Wisdom of Children’s Literature

2020
Author:

Jonathan Cott
Foreword by Maria Popova

Pipers at the Gates of Dawn

Jonathan Cott’s reflections and conversations with six celebrated children’s authors


Pipers at the Gates of Dawn is a unique ensemble bringing together Jonathan Cott’s encounters and conversations with some of the most celebrated children’s authors of the twenty-first century. From Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) and Maurice Sendak to Astrid Lindgren and Chinua Achebe, he explores with the authors the lives of their created characters and the character of their own lives.

A fascinating exploration of the world of children’s literature by one of the very cleverest and most original journalists writing in English today.

Jan Morris

Pipers at the Gates of Dawnis a unique ensemble bringing together Jonathan Cott’s encounters and conversations with some of the most celebrated children’s authors of the twenty-first century. “Children’s literature,” he states, “brings us back to experiencing our earliest and deepest feelings and truths. It is our link to the past and a path to the future. And in it we find ourselves.” Cott’s firm belief is that children’s literature can impart wisdom and delight to everyone, and he believes that the masterpieces of children’s literature are simply masterpieces of literature in miniature, conveyors of wisdom and wonder.

 

Pipers at the Gates of Dawn consists of Cott’s essay-interviews with Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), Maurice Sendak, William Steig, Astrid Lindgren, Chinua Achebe, P. L.Travers, and with Iona and Peter Opie, the great scholars of the lore, games, and language of schoolchildren. He explores with the authors themselves the lives of their created characters and the character of their own lives. All share with Cott an impassioned sense of the richness and complexity of childhood, and of the enduring importance of children’s literature in the lives of all of us.

Pipers at the Gates of Dawn

Jonathan Cott is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker. He is author of twenty books, including Listening: Interviews, 1970–1989; Days That I’ll Remember: Spending Time with John and Yoko; and There’s a Mystery There: The Primal Vision of Maurice Sendak. Cott also collaborated with Sendak on Victorian Color Picture Books and is editor of Beyond the Looking Glass: Extraordinary Works of Fairy Tale and Fantasy. He lives in New York City.



Maria Popova is founder of the weekly newsletter Brain Pickings and author of Figuring. A writer, literary and culture critic, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Pipers at the Gates of Dawn

A fascinating exploration of the world of children’s literature by one of the very cleverest and most original journalists writing in English today.

Jan Morris

Pipers at the Gates of Dawn is not a winsome foray into the saccharine world of childhood books and pleasant chats with their grandmotherly authors. Instead, this book is a serious, even profound study of complex writers and the depths concealed under the hard-wrought simplicity of their stories. It should be put on the shelf next to another milestone book—Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment—because it shows that childhoods are our common ground, lasting in their influences and as wide as they are deep.

Jerry Griswold, Los Angeles Times Book Review

In Jonathan Cott, children’s books have acquired as literate, as receptive, and as articulate a spokesman as the most exacting devotee of the literature could wish. . . . Lucky the authors who find such a critic. And lucky the readers who find essays as intelligent, as penetrating as these to take them nearer the subtle beauties and unexpected complexities of the great books for children.

Anne Scott MacLeod, The Washington Post

Jonathan Cott’s fascinating talk with P. L. Travers, chiefly on the Buddhist/transcendental play of ideas in her work, is one of six interviews with authors in this lyrical exploration of children’s literature. The book is at once an escorted journey into myths of passage and renewal, and a Mary Poppins carpetbag compendium of the history of children’s literature and literary biography.

Hope Cooke (former queen of Sikkim), Chicago Sun-Times

A book, as serious as it is delightful, about a subject no less serious, no less delightful. The chapter on the Opies is in itself worth the entrance fee. How I wish parents by the tens of thousands could read it and make it part of themselves.

Clifton Fadiman

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Available in April 2020