Distinctive Children's Books

IT is a pleasure to print in this issue the critical opinion of Anne Carroll Moore, adviser in the Ju venile Department of the New York Public Library.
THERE are pictures out of fairyland itself among the best illustrated books of the year. Ferdinand Huszti Horvath’s drawings for Ruskin’s The King of the Golden River (William E. Rudge, $6.00) belong to that order and assure this edition of a well-known classic a place in the memory of the children who are fortunate enough to own it as well as on the shelves of lovers of fine printing. Buskin, who paid his score to the Brothers Grimm and to Cruikshank’s pictorial interpretation of their tales, could ask for no finer tribute after eighty years than Mr. Horvath and his publisher present in the six drawings which interpret his fairy tale.
The variety and range of Mr. Horvath’s work are to he found also in a book calling for heroic measures, kenneth Morris’s Book of the Three Dragons (Longmans, Green, $5.00) is a new treatment of the Mabinogion. Written in lyrical prose and given an impressive format, this stirring legend will be the more clearly remembered because of the artist’s realization of its dramatic power. We could wish that Mr. Morris had made a clear statement of the liberties he has taken with the old Welsh tales and that a bibliography of sources had accompanied his story. It is only fair of young readers as well as to older ones to insist on such accompaniment in dealing with source material.
There Was Magic in Those days (Stokes, $2.00) is the alluring title given by Norreyss Jephson O’Conor to his admirably retold story from Irish folklore. There are interesting resemblances between the King of the Leprechauns’ Journey to Emania, as the old tale was called, and Swift’s voyage to Brobdingnag, Mr. O’Conor points out, but he is careful to state that no proof has yet been found that the story was known lo the author of Gulliver. J. Gower Parks, in a series of line drawings in color, has given a pictorial interpretation in harmony with the text.
Out of his own boyhood memories of communion with fairies in Ireland Arthur Mason has spun stories which to some readers may seem over-Irished and to others entirely delightful in their rendering. The Wee Men of Ballywooden (Doubleday, Doran, $2.50) is accompanied by clearly drawn imaginative illustrations which have the true atmosphere of Ireland. The book is one for all ages.
Dhan Gopal Mukerji has turned from tales of the jungle to retell India’s epic poem, the Ramayana, for boys and girls. In Rama, The Hero of India (Dutton, $2.50), Mr. Mukerji has made a living story of the Hindu classic which he assures us is more alive in the streets of India to-day than the Iliad is in Greece.
Concerning adaptations and rewritings of the classics there will always be differences of opinion. In my own experience, when competently done, they have led to an enlargement, of reading interests which seems highly desirable in the period bordering on the teens. I have had a reservation with respect to the Canterbury Tales, however, remembering the delight of first, exploring them in Chaucer’s English. But Eleanor Farjeon’s prose rendering and adaptation of the whole fellowship, giving every tale its place and in Chaucer’s phrase, delight me. The road leads, if not to haucer in the original, to the very heart of his jolly old England. Tales from Chaucer (Cape and Smith, $3.00) reflects a rare assimilation of old tales and times on the part of one of the best of the imaginative writers of England.
Two illustrated books, although utterly different in form and content, remain outstanding among books of the year. If Tranquilina’s Paradise(Minton, Balch, $2.50) owes its distinction to the beautiful decorative drawings of Thomas Handforth, it owes its intimacy with Mexican life to Susan Smith, who in this charmingly rendered story and in her Made in Mexico (Knopf, $2.00) gives remarkably clear and interesting impressions of that country. The Cat Who Went to Heaven (Macmillan, $3.00) is Elizabeth Coatsworth’s legend, and a very poetic and unusual story it is, with Japan for its background. Lynd Ward’s portrait drawings are interesting, but by no means as satisfying as the legend itself. It is, we think, the best thing Miss Coatsworth has done in prose.
Lynd Ward has also made a picture book of line imaginative quality depicting an adventurous motor car in communion with itself. Stop Tim! (Farrar and Rinehart, $1.50), for which May McNeer has written the text, will go to the heart of any driver.
Of several new books of verse for little children, I like John Farrar’s Songs for Johnny-Jump-Up (Richard R. Smith, $1.50) best. The lines,
I want to escape all alone
With nobody spying about,
give a clue to the charm of this interpretative little volume, which reflects clear childhood memories and delight in a child’s daily companionship. One feels the verses have not been done to a pattern.
Children are full of surprises and no one knows this better than Walter de la Mare, whose Songs for Childhood ( Longmans, Green, $2.00) should have a place in every household as the first signpost in twentieth-century exploration of the child’s mind.
For older girls and all lovers of the stars, Sara Teasdale has made a critical selection from her new and old poems to which she has given the expressive title, Stars Tonight (Macmillan, $3.00). For this book Dorothy Lathrop has made illustrative accompaniments of rare beauty and imaginative appeal. One feels the artist was set free in space.
Early Moon (Harcourt, Brace, $3.00), Carl Sandburg’s selection from his own poems, presents an interesting contrast both in selective principle and in the manner of illustration. James Daugherty’s interpretative decorations vary considerably in significance, and the number of drawings might well have been reduced. ‘What can be explained is not poetry,’Sandburg reminds us in a characteristic introduction to a volume which contains meat and drink for all modern educators of children, as well us beauty and wisdom for boys and girls in the teens.
ANNE CARROLL MOORE