I used to have a patchwork theory about the makers of children’s literature: that they were not so much people who spent a lot of time with kids as people who were still kids themselves. Among the evidence was that Beatrix Potter had no children, Maurice Sendak had no children, Margaret Wise Brown had no children, Tove Jansson had no children, and Dr. Seuss had no children. Even Willems began writing for children before he had a child. But what makes these adults so in touch with the distinct color and scale of the emotions of children?
I now have a new theory: Tove Jansson began her Moomin series during the Nazi occupation of Finland; Paddington Bear was modelled on the Jewish refugee children turning up alone in London train stations. Arnold Lobel, the creator of the Frog and Toad books, came out to his children as gay and died relatively young, from aids. I wonder if the truer unity among children’s-book authors is sublimated outrage at the adult world. If they’re going to serve someone, it’s going to be children.
-Rivka Galchen ‘Mo Willems’s funny failures‘ The New Yorker