Children's Books of 1930

BOOKS for children, as everyone knows, are invariably purchased for them by their elders, many of whom have to depend on the salesmen’s advice or a few seconds’ sampling in a crowded bookstall. The Atlantic counts it a privilege to be able to offer these recommendations of Anne Carroll Moore of the New York public Library. A further selection by Miss Moore will appear in the Bookshel for December.
THERE are space and air, light and laughter, and living truth in the children’s book that survives, and the search for these elements in the publications of a given season is rarely so well rewarded as it is this year. Out of hundreds of hooks examined I have made a first selection representative of typical groups and worthy of personal ownership by children from picture-book age well into the teens.
A Roundabout Turn (Warne & Co., $1.50) is a good starting point, for of all books the picture book has the most universal appeal. No one, whether child or grown-up, who sees the drawings of Leslie Brooke, and what he has done with the venturesome Toad of Albury Heath who sets forth to see for himself how round the world is, is likely to rest content without a copy of this delightful book for his very own. The verses, a rare piece of authentic nonsense, appeared first in Punch. They were written by Robert Charles.
A new picture book by Leslie Brooke, the creator of Johnny Crow and The Golden Goose Book, is an event, for we have had no books from his competent hand for
several years. To a greater degree than any other artist he has carried on in the Caldecott tradition of childlike fun excellently drawn against a background of clear colors. His talent as a portrait painter is clearly discernible in his picture books when applied to birds and animals in human situations. Every detail is most carefully drawn, with full appreciation of a child’s intelligence and sense of humor.
From Albury Heath to Mexico City may seem a long way to travel, but in Roné d’Harnoncourt’s drawings for The Pointed Pig, by Elizabeth Morrow (Knopf, $2.00), we make the happy discovery that childhood’s country knows no boundaries. This book is Mexico. Whether one has ever been there or not, one feels the authenticity of the colorful and rhythmic drawings of children and their toys in a country where every toy is an original — a sculpture, a painting, or a drawing. Thanks to Mrs. Dwight Morrow’s keen perception of the value of such a spontaneous pictorial record of Mexican life to all children, and to the circumstantial story drawn from her own experience in buying a painted pig in the market at Cuernavaca, we have in this book a unique addition to picture books of enduring quality. The reproduction of some fifteen illustrations in brilliant colors is admirable and results in a book in striking contrast to many which look like mere advertising matter. Countries with a tradition of art and culture deserve something better at the hands of American publishers than a succession of mechanical printings in hard bright colors.
Excellence of effect can be produced by very simple means. The alternative use of orange and blue to set off the deep blacks in Emma Brock’s To Market, To Market (Knopf, $1.75) illustrates the point. Here is a third well-conceived and well-produced picture book with a background of Holland drawn from life. The artist has written her own jolly little story, in which a mouse and a duck go to market and have many adventures by the way. Those who have had the good fortune t0 be in Middleburg on a market day will recognize how true it all is. Here are the farmers in their tilt-carts, the fishwives, the butter-wives, the sailors, the children. Miss Brock has a sure sense of selection, of what belongs in a picture book of another country, as well as her own way of seeing.
The artist who can write his own stories or the anthor who can illustrate his is indeed a fortunate soul. Anne Parrish has done both in Floating Island (Harper, $3.00). This is quite the most childlike and charming book of the year for children just beyond the picturebook age and beginning to read on their own account. Although concerned with dolls and a shipwreck in tropical seas, it is entirely original, thoroughly informed, and written in effortless prose which should be taken to heart by all educators who are laboriously trying to put factual information in story form. It takes an artist with a sense of humor as well as of beauty to make the connection between the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown. Anne Parrish has done just that with her doll house and its inimitable inhabitants. The drawings are in perfect harmony with the text and will seem to a child as if done for him personally. The adventures of Mr. Doll and William will be as interesting to small boys as to girls.
For boys somewhat older, in touch with the world of the fourth school grade, Emil and the Detectives, by Erich Kaestner (Doubleday, Doran, $2.00), holds an original portrait gallery through which they pass to the fascinating story of the lively adventures of Emil and his friends in Berlin. Translated from the German by May Massee, the story loses none of its freshness and virility as a human document. The small boy of the world has never been better done than by Herr Kaestner, young German poet and journalist. One is reminded of William Henry, almost the first natural ten-year-old boy in American fiction — the creation of Mrs. Diaz. William Henry and Emil have a good many ideas in common although living in different countries and in different periods of time. Both books are packed with boy psychology, and very opportunely The It William Henry Letters by Abby Morton Diaz (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. $2.00) has this year been reissued in a well-printed large type edition retaining the original illustrations.
For little girls there is Eliza Orne White’s story, The Green Door, with scissor cuts by Lisl Hummel (Houghton Mifflin, $1.50), in which a lively little girl comes from the Middle West to live in a New England town. Miss White’s stories are true to life: they come from the competent hand of a novelist as well as the heart of a lover of children.
For the children of various ages who last year enjoyed the Bastable Children, for their elders who may relish that English author, E. Nesbit, and for the unacquainted who have luck, it will be a happy surprise to find that three rollicking volumes. Fire Children and It, The Phœnix and the Carpet, and The Story of the Amulet, have this year been compressed and reissued in a single volume. The Fire Children, by E. Nesbit (CowardMcCann, $3.00). It is the publisher’s mistake, however, to advertise E. Nesbit as ’the English Louisa Alcott.’ She holds quite a different place by her own individual right. Her plots are different from all other plots and her English scenes have a singular charm. Her bookread aloud incomparably.
There are several other excellent books from which to read aloud at Halloween and Thanksgiving. A Baker’s Dozen (Harcourt, Brace, $2.00) contains thirteen admirably chosen stories which Mary Gould Davis
often tells to boys and girls of ten and twelve. The Bold Dragoon and Other Ghostly Tales by Washington Irving (Knopf, $3.50) is a reminder pictorially as well as textually of what a capital inventor of mystery stories Washington Irving really was. James Daugherty, who made the pictures for The Bold Dragoon, has also illustrated a new edition of Stephen Vincent Benét’s John Brown’s Body (Doubleday, Doran, $3.50), designed especially for older boys and girls. As one can readily see, the artist has been in personal touch with the poet. These are but the forerunners of a longer list in December.