on Books Read in 2020
There is a sagging shelf in our library overfilled with to-be-read children’s books. When a parent comes to me to ask my opinion on a book for their children, I do not wish to recommend a book or author I have not gotten to know myself, or at least have shared a full conversation about with a much trusted and like minded fellow reader. Throughout the year I choose one of these stories at random and by mood and begin to read. Sometimes the book gets re-donated to a thrift store. That happens when I can not imagine myself putting the book into the hands of a child for whatever reason. Often I read a classic gem that leaves me sighing with happiness, and a bit sad about with what the stories of yesteryear have been replaced, and then I smile again when I think of all the reading families I know of who regularly search out these gems. Sometimes, I am most pleasantly surprised by the joy in finding a beautiful story in a modern volume, and I want to tell the world of mothers about a really good children’s story book that is in print today.
One of the categories in The Literary Life 20 for 2020 Reading Challenge was A Classic Children’s Book. I could barely contain my excitement. I will forever read children’s books with great pleasure. I first chose a book that I did not have the opportunity to read with my own children when the were small, but had heard so many wonderful testimonies about its virtues. I chose Swallows and Amazons. And I instantly fell in love with The Walker Family. I was there with them on their island adventure, I could smell the smoke of the campfire and feel the sense of responsibility and excitement in the air. And I was with their mother as she was home that summer, watching her care for baby and knowing that in her mind’s eye she was seeing the crew of the Swallow as they lived out their first unchaperoned adventure. These children were carefully prepared for independent adventure, they were not merely brought outside and told ‘play’. There is so much inspiration for parents and children in this story! In reality, there are indeed very few who would be able to safely give their children the freedom these fictional children experienced. But the essence of the parental duty of teaching and equipping our children to be full hearted, strong minded, capable adults is there in this story; as is the duty of the child to grow into, and earn, the privilege of responsibility and freedom. Oh how I wish I had read this story to my own children! I can imagine the fun they would have had reenacting the adventures. I hope to read the rest of the series eventually.
BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WONT DROWNtelegram to the ship’s crew from their father
For that same category, I read The Betsy-Tacy Treasury with the first four stories. Another delightful classic about friendship, and family. As I read about Betsy and her siblings, then about Betsy and her friends and neighbors, I saw how true to humanity the characters in the book are. I have the next treasury on my to-be-read shelf and I will be happy to visit with Betsy again. I would have enjoyed her even more if we had met when I was a little girl! I also re-read The Secret Garden for that category, because my memory of that story is so intertwined with the many movie versions I love to watch that I wanted a refresher of the REAL story.
Another category in the challenge was A Collection of Short Stories. I had selected a much-loved copy of The Little Book-Room while helping my friend in her book booth at a homeschool convention. I knew it would be a treasure trove of story because of the author! I share a quote that will resonate with many reading families, and is what made me sure I needed to add this frayed and bumped, much read volume to our home library. And I am sure that it will be read again and again.
In the home of my childhood there was a room we called ‘The Little Bookroom’. True, every room in the house could have been called a bookroom. Our nurseries upstairs were full of books. Downstairs my father’s study was full of them. They lined the dining-room walls, and overflowed into my mother’s sitting-room, and up into the bedrooms. It would have been more natural to live without clothes than without books. As unnatural not to read as to eat.Opening of Author’s Note in The Little Bookroom by Elenor Farjeon
Stories with lots of Imagination
A few of the children’s books I read in 2020 were chosen by nothing more than the mood I was in at the moment. My subconscious must have suspected that I needed a hearty healthy dose of delightful imagination. The Wind Boy was originally published in 1923. I am not sure of what category it would be, fairy tale? or other world? fantasy? This story is beautiful, imaginative, a true happy heart story for young and old. There is depth to be explored in this little fantastical writing. I can not say for certain what ideas the author intended to promote, but as a Christian I was projecting my own worldview and found Grace, forgiveness, beauty, and hope, and experienced a sense of the nearness of Heaven. I will be looking into reading more of her children’s stories. Another I randomly read was A Little Boy Lost, originally published in 1918. In this story the imaginations of a 7 year old boy knows no bounds. If there are depths of wisdom and understanding to be found in this fantastical tale, I missed them and will have to read again. But if the aim of the story was to entertain and stretch the reader’s imagination, that mark was easily reached. Either way, I was happily caught up in this strange story.
When W. H. Hudson wrote A Little Boy Lost, he was trying to create a story which, in his own words, offered “the little thrills that nature itself gave me, which half frightened and fascinated at the same time, the wonder and mystery of it all.”from the introduction
Another book I read by chance was The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling. Oh! What a fun FUN story! A young governess on her first assignment is expected to care for children who were raised by wolves, and she decides their first lessons should be reading and reciting classic poetry, the study of languages, art appreciation and application, classical music, nature study, and of course Shakespeare. I was laughing out loud because I could not help but make the parallel between the fictional Swanburne Academy and Charlotte Mason’s House of Education. By the second book, I was ready to embroider multiple pillows with the wise sayings of Charlotte Mason. Don’t be surprised if I actually do.
All books are judged by their covers until they are read.Agatha Swanburne
Do yourselves, and your family, a favor and listen to the audible versions of the Incorrigible Children books. On impulse I used my usually hoarded audible credits to buy them, and I have not regretted that decision for a moment. I firmly believe that reading books aloud is an underrated form of art, where skill and talent are needed, and I always appreciate being read to by a true artist. (And here I stop to jot down in my list of blog post ideas: share favorite audible books based on the skill of the narrator.)
Thank you for visiting, and listening to me ramble about books! I promise the next post will be about something other than reading… hopefully!