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Any parent dismayed by the rows of Goosebumps books dominating the children's sections of most bookstores, any grandparent concerned about the Nintendo induced glaze over a grandchild's eyes, and any loving adult wishing a child to know good books will celebrate Noel Perrin's latest collection of essays. His earlier guide to neglected adult literature, A Reader's Delight, achieved the status of a classic, and now he has written a companion volume dedicated to children's fiction. Perrin's wit and engaging prose ...
Any parent dismayed by the rows of Goosebumps books dominating the children's sections of most bookstores, any grandparent concerned about the Nintendo induced glaze over a grandchild's eyes, and any loving adult wishing a child to know good books will celebrate Noel Perrin's latest collection of essays. His earlier guide to neglected adult literature, A Reader's Delight, achieved the status of a classic, and now he has written a companion volume dedicated to children's fiction. Perrin's wit and engaging prose are, as always, in constant evidence, but it is his intuitive grasp of what makes a story work for children that renders this new book an essential resource for any home where books are valued.
Limiting his scope to those works already overlooked or in danger of slipping from view, Perrin leads us through a wide spectrum of fiction, ranging from stories for the very youngest listeners to nuanced novels for the adolescent reader. There is something here for every child: dolls and their houses; animals of varied talents and personalities; travels through time and space; romances promised, sometimes failed, sometimes realized; castles and battling warriors; magic of familiar as well as alien worlds; historical bits woven into textured stories. Richard Adams, Leslie Brooke, Arthur Conan Doyle, Wanda Gág, Rumer Godden, Anne Lindbergh, Hugh Lofting, Jean Merrill, Ernest Thompson Seton, Margery Sharp, Dodie Smith, and others know what it feels like to be a kid in an adult world. As does Noel Perrin — and so will the readers of A Child's Delight.
Perrin is one of those rare grown-up literati who appreciate the joys and splendors that are peculiar to books for children, and this volume collects his appreciations of 30 such works. Most of those under discussion were written and published in the 20th century, which Perrin believes has been the golden age of children's literature. He has chosen works that he calls "wonderful but little-known," although it is hard to imagine that The Story of Doctor Doolittle, The Borrowers, The Rescuers, The Railway Children, and Watership Down (to name but three of his choices) qualify as "little-known." On the other hand, P.L. Travers's I Go By Land, I Go By Sea, Virginia Hamilton's The Planet of Junior Brown, and Robert C. O'Brien's Z for Zachariah, among others, sound like real finds. Perrin's great strength here, as in the previous book, is his ability to communicate enthusiasm in an intelligent, thoughtful way. He playfully and intently assumes a child's consciousness (he has two children and four stepchildren, so he undoubtedly has had ample practice), allowing readers to see what a child might value in the books he extols. He is also skilled in highlighting the themes that draw most of the works together, particularly a focus on the battle of the small and powerless against the big and strong, an understandable concern for children. Occasionally, he gets carried away with his own whimsy, and taken in large doses, the book is a bit twee, certainly not a problem afflicting A Reader's Delight.
Despite the periodic lapse into cuteness, this is quite a delight itself and should send parents and kids alike scurrying to library shelves in search of Perrin's picks.
A Good Book to Read to a Two Year Old - Leslie Brook Johnny Crow's Garden
Wanda's Wonder-Book - Wanda Gag - Millions of Cats
The Third Grade Goes to Space - Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System
Living Dolls - Rumer Godden The Doll's House
Boy Wants Dog - Mary Stolz A Dog on Barkham Street
Nathaniel's Wonder-Book - Nathaniel Hawthorne A Wonder-Book for Boys and Girls and Tanglewood Tales
Living Dolls II - Mary Norton The Borrowers
A Black Planet - Virginia Hamilton The Planet of Junior Brown
The Freedom of the Woods - Ernest Thompson Seton Two Little Savages
Living Dolls III - T.H. White Mistress Masham's Repose
Three Fine Mice - Margery Sharp The Rescuers
Two Magical Books
The Jailbird's Daughter
Way Out West in Egypt Land
Dear Diary? Delightful Diary!
A Ten Year Old in Hollywood
The Kids Fight Back
A Tale of Two Brothers
Many Tales of Three Brothers
It is Permitted to Try Again
An Adventure a Day
The Empty Castle
Prince of Deira
A Strange Voyage
An Animal Epic
Last Woman Meets Last Man
A Dog From Heaven
The Peaceable Kingdom
If They Will Sign the Treaty, He May Kiss Me
A Book That Works Like a Charm