Sunday, February 02, 2014

Parents' Review Quote for the Day: On Children's Books and Uncle Podger

"The very genius of childhood demands that it should be screened by parenthood from evil influences, and laid open to benign ones, and we need not therefore stint the babies in bright and pretty pictures full of sunshine, in fun, frolic, and beauty, as much as a Caldecot [sic] can find to give.

"...I am convinced that it is sufficient to teach children what to do, and ignore lessons on what to leave undone. Miss Sinclair--"Holiday House" [Aug.. 2014, try this link instead] --says incidentally:--"Such mean vices as lying and stealing are so frequently and elaborately described that the way to commit those crimes is made obvious".... It may be argued--I hope it will not--that children cannot appreciate humour at an early age. To anyone who does take up this position I would like to suggest that the scenes of Uncle Podger and the packing up from "Three Men in a Boat" should be tried on infant minds. It is quite true, of course, that these scenes are pictures of really painful experiences, but I verily believe that the author meant the reader to laugh over them, and he will be pleased to learn, if he did not know before, that it is scarcely possible to fix an age so young at which the fun cannot be understood. "Oh, mother," said a little girl of four in baby tones, "do get father to buy you 'Three Men in a Boat' for your birthday; it would be so delicious!" The copy out of which Uncle Podger had been read was a library one."

"If pictures and fun are to be the delight of the very young, it is also very necessary that the latter should be put into intelligible words. To use intelligible words it needs to speak of things which can be understood, and the things which can be understood are those with which the babies come in contact daily. It is not necessary for authors and authoresses, prim and perfect, to choose sweet words and dole out moralities which miss their mark; the plain words which are regularly used for the facts stated are the best. Has it never happened to the reader to reproduce the polished sentences of a children's author, and at the end to be saluted with the exclamation, uttered by the auditors amid a rustling of relief, "Now, mother, tell it us?" This request gives us a key to the writing which suits the young--I do not say either that it is unsuitable to the older folk. What they want are curious and interesting facts; such situations as they may place themselves in, in imagination, the adventures of a grandmother, as a child, in India, "Little Susie's [sic] Six Birthdays," the doings at "Holiday House." Hence if we will only treat childhood with the respect due to it, and speak in simple and forcible language, not in the pigeon dialect and style so common, we shall attain our end more completely. "  ~~ "Childrens Books," by George Radford, in The Parents' Review, Volume 2, 1891/92, pgs. 496-504.

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