Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I Miss Kiddie Lit

My daughter is taking a Children's Lit. class this semester at school.  I'm a little envious.  That's one class I always wanted to take, just because I've always loved "kiddie lit."  Reading to the children when they were younger was one of the most enjoyable parts of their childhood.

I'll never forget when I was reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud, when ML figured out (at age three) who was coming through the forest - Her eyes got big as she said breathlessly, "The white witch!!"

ML got these books from our school library to look at for a project this weekend.  Before returning them for her, I snapped a picture.  Most were old favorites from our own read-aloud days.

It was really through "kiddie lit" that I discovered that some books are truly pieces of literature even when written for children.  There is a reason that Goodnight Moon, and many other books, have lasted all these years - while most of the cheapos that I picked up along the way, on clearance tables at various discount stores, are unheard of now.  Quality children's books become classics when they have good (if simple) plots, the characters are drawn with details and dimension, and they have a theme worth expressing.

Some (not all) of the Christian children's stories we got were a disappointment as well.  In my opinion the  worst were the ones that told a little story, about Mr. Bunny or whatever, and then ended with a little moral at the end:  "And so Mr. Bunny learned to be kind to his friends. . ." etc., etc., etc.  Well, while it's important to learn to be kind to one's friends, that is a very weak way to end a story.  One of the marks of a good piece of lit, for any age, is that it shows rather than tells the theme.

One of our favorite sets was the Beatrix Potter stories.  They are not as emphasized these days; I think a lot of people look at her work as a nice historic set to keep on the shelves but not necessarily to read aloud.  Her stories are absolutely delightful - wonderful little tales with beautiful illustrations, and just enough unusual words to help children learn some new ones.  We'd read Peter Rabbit and come to the word "fortnight" - and both children would say "Two weeks!"  The stories of the Flopsy Bunnies - Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Mrs. Tittlemouse, Two Bad Mice - They are such good quality, and interesting, reading for young children.  The Flopsy Bunnies started out by saying that (loosely quoted) "The effect of eating lettuce leaves is sopoforific."

Of course, some of the the "cheapos" became favorites as well, and that was fine - there weren't objectionable element problems with them; they just weren't that great.  But sometimes they got difficult for the reader (that would be me) to read over and over.  And that's one of the best ways to tell if a book is worth standing the test of time - If it can be enjoyed by the adult doing the reading, as well as by the child being read to - it's a good book.

1 comment:

Rhoda said...

I liked reading Courduroy to Andrew.