Word for Word

With so many serious writers working in the children's section, kids’ books are a welcome trap door into high culture. And nobody has tripped that door more often, and to as much acclaim, as Daniel Handler writing as Lemony Snicket. No, we don't mean his Series of Unfortunate Events novels. Those are much too dark for 2-year-olds, with too many words. We mean his picture books like The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming and The Lump of Coal. Like the best children's books, they appeal to adults in the same way The Gashlycrumb Tinies appeals to adults: You suspect you'll read it with or without a child present, and you do. His next book is similarly pegged to go all ages: He's teamed up with illustrator Maira Kalman, who moves among age groups with a similar ease — she's behind scores of picture books, more than 10 New Yorker covers (remember “New Yorkistan”?), two “illustrated columns” for The New York Times, and The Elements of Style Illustrated, among other things. We don't know much about the new book, 13 Words, except for the words themselves: bird, despondent, cake, dog, busy, convertible, goat, hat, haberdashery, scarlet, baby, panache, and mezzo-soprano. Those are good words to know, even for adults. Tonight the pair discuss their work with Steven Winn, as part of the City Arts and Lectures series.
Wed., Sept. 29, 8 p.m., 2010

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