Only Margaret: A Story About Margaret Wise Brown – Candice Ransom

Only Margaret: A Story about Margaret Wise Brown by Candice Ransom, Nan Lawson
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers on October 12, 2021
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
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When Halley’s comet arrived in 1910, so did an extraordinary person: Margaret Wise Brown. Margaret had a boundless imagination and a gift for spinning stories. Most grown-ups thought children’s books were frivolous and silly, but Margaret didn’t agree. Could writing stories for children be important work—a incredible way to share truth, beauty, and wonder?  
Other people might call Margaret strange, and sometimes her own worries and doubts felt overwhelming. But only Margaret and her original ideas could lead to Goodnight MoonThe Runaway Bunny­, and other classics beloved by children around the world. 
From smuggling rabbits onto trains, to scribbling stories about island whispers, Margaret embraced adventure in life and on the page. This whimsically illustrated biography shares how an independent, fun-loving woman became a trailblazing pioneer of the picture-book form.

Margaret Wise Brown wrote over 100 children’s books. Even if you don’t know her name, you probably know some of her work, with Goodnight Moon being her most beloved classic. What you probably don’t know, even if you knew Margaret Wise Brown’s name, was anything else about her. Only Margaret is here to help with that.

Written by Candice Ransom, a professor of children’s literature who has 150 children’s books to her own credit, Only Margaret is a Margaret Wise Brown biography in the only way she’d ever want it: whimsical, educational, and beautifully illustrated. The story progresses chronologically, with each page focusing on Margaret’s delightful eccentricities that absolutely baffled those around her. In an age where women were supposed to be prim and proper, Margaret Wise Brown bucked all convention, living a carefree and adventurous life.

This is a book for kids, but I found myself reading out Margaret Wise Brown for about an hour after reading Only Margaret. Were these stories hyperbolized for children? Not at all. If anything, they were understated. Ransom tells us the story behind some of Brown’s most famous works.

For children who may never thought about the story of the person who tells a story, Only Margaret is a delightful bit of insight that writers are real and have personalities and, in some cases, are even stranger and more delightful than their books. (I feel like I’m overusing the word delightful, but it’s the word that best fits.)

I want more children’s biographies of children’s authors just like this. Roald Dahl? Dr. Seuss? Eric Carle? Maurice Sendak? Yes to all, please. Children know that most biographies are boring. They’re names and dates and blah and blah. Ransom focuses on the important stuff, telling kids the kind of things kids would find important and interesting. That’s child’s-eye view is what sets the book apart and it’s equally due to Margaret’s quirkiness and Ransom’s ability to capture that mood.

What a delightful book. I’ll say it again. It’s colorful, fun, and informative. It leaves you wanting to know more. You can’t ask for any more than this. (But I will. Please do books like this for other children’s authors.)