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Saturday, January 20, 2018
Which Children’s Books Rank As The All-Time Best?
year I purchased a copy of The
Collector’s Book of Children’s Books by Eric Quayle, a 1971 edition from
Strand Book Store in New York City. It’s
a wonderful history of children’s books.
Coming to life, through its over-sized pages were Aesop’s Fables, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Huckleberry Finn, The Jungle Book, and
Voyages of Dr. Dolittle Which childhood memory rushes back to you just at
the mention of such illuminary books?
up with books as the centerpiece of fantasy and escape may be a thing of the
past for most. Today’s child has the
Internet, television, movies, theater and a downloadable catalog of
entertainment and information that’s mind-boggling. As we look back at some of the classics for
kids, we harken back to a lost era when these books brought an ephemeral,
elusive pleasure to children.
Here are some insightful excerpts from the book:
provide one of the most fruitful ways in which a child can increase his
knowledge of the world and extend his vocabulary to include a diverse and
exotic mixture of places and things to which he would otherwise remain a
after the novels and romances of adult life have faded and been forgotten, the
simple stories and tales we read in childhood live on in our hearts. Who ever forgets The Story of the Three Bears, the tale of Jack the Giant Killer, or the plots of Rumplestiltzkin, Cinderella, or The
Wizard of Oz? The nursery rhymes and
fairy-tales we first heard in the tucked-up-in-bed security of early youth
continue to exert a fascination throughout life, the words and phrases etching
themselves in the memory for instant recall at any time or place. They colour our literary consciousness, and
are repeated as fables to the eager young listeners who re-create the image of
ourselves so many years ago. Just to
hear again the magic words Once upon a time… with all the breath-taking
anticipation they inspire, is to crowd the mind with the lost delights of
childhood and conjure up a picture of never-never land of make-believe and
fantasy. Once, a long time ago, all of
us lived there and believed it to be true.
This is the story of the little books that made us believe; and probably
brought us more happiness and peace of mind than anything we have ever read
publishing began to develop in a way we recognize today with the appearance of
sophisticated and worldly-wise fiction for adults and books of amusement and
entertainment for children. Both these
phenomena occurred in the 1740s, the former with the appearance of the first
‘true’ novel in English, Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, 4 vols. 1741-2, by
Samuel Richardson (1689-1761), a book discussed in the companion volume to this
present work; and the latter with the publication by John Newbery of his first
book for children in 1744. Brief mention
must be made of Thomas Boreman, a publisher of children’s books, who sold them
from his shop at the ‘Boot and Crown’, and from a temporary stall erected with
those of other traders within the Guildhall, London. A
Description of a Great Variety ofAnimals,
and Vegetables…especially for the
Entertainment of Youth, 1736, and The
Gigantick History of the two famous Giants…in Guildhall, 2 vols. 1740 shows
that he was publishing books for children before Newbery came into the field."
have never ceased to enjoy reading fairy tales since the first collection of
them appeared in print early in the 17th century. They were the first literature for children
to escape from the stifling toils of didacticism and were attacked and
condemned by the puritanical writes for precisely this reason. The battle between the strait-laced juvenile
tract and the fairy stories that children delighted to read extended until well
into the 1830s. By the age of Victoria,
they had been grudgingly accepted by the parents, guardians and governesses of
even the most strictly regulated children, and well-thumbed collections of the best
known tales were to be found on nursery shelves everywhere."
great landmarks in the annals of children’s books are more fully discussed
elsewhere in this work: but it can be
said that the appearance of Alice in
Wonderland, 1865, marked a decisive victory over the now scattered
exponents of moral earnestness and that the battle was finally won with the
publication of Stevenson’s Treasure
Island in 1883. Children could
identify themselves with the Jim Hawkins of the apple-barrel perhaps more
easily than Alice in her dream-world
of fantasy and make-believe, but both were rational human beings who became as
easily excited, bored, irritated and bad-tempered as the boy or girl who turned
the pages of their books."
Here are the best chldren's books identified by Quayle: