For Kids of All Ages: The National Society of Film Critics on Children’s Movies

Rowman & Littlefield. Dec. 2019. 256p. ed. by ed. by Peter Keough. photos. index. ISBN 9781538128589. pap. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9781538128596. FILM
These lovingly curated essays and reviews cover a range of films, from those that have entertained children to ones that evoke a childlike sense of wonder to those that explore childhood, including its downsides. Children are centered in the Lumière brothers’ 50-second-long Querelle enfantine (1896), while a missing child powers the soul-crushing Loveless (2017). Using this broader application of “children’s movies,” Keough (Kathryn Bigelow: Interviews) compiles newly commissioned and previously published pieces from members of the National Society of Film Critics. Organized by topics that include animation and book adaptations, the chapters each include a thoughtful introduction from Keough. Each movie, even if mentioned only in passing, is listed in an appendix, along with its MPAA rating and content advisory. While an anthology of essays by film critics might sound like dry reading, this engaging volume is anything but. The book is designed to overwhelm one’s hold list, and the writing is potent, passionate, and personal. Roger Ebert’s letter to his grandchildren after watching E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) with them reminds readers of the power of cinema and the importance of make-believe.
VERDICT This compelling meditation on cinematic representations of childhood is a must for film buffs.

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