GOOD books for children, for boys especially, are gifts which few of us light on with any certainty. Many years’ experience in the New York Public Library, however, enables Miss Anne Carroll Moore to make a choice which we can accept as that of an authority.
HOLIDAY BOOKS FOR BOYS
CHIEF among new books for boys is a tale of adventure and a lively chronicle of boyhood, Java Ho! (CowardMeCann, $2.50). Translated and abridged from the German by M. C. Darnton, this delightful story by Johan Wigmore Fubricius is based on the log book of the old Dutch skipper, Bontekoe, who made a memorable voyage to the East Indies in 1618.
The author, who is also a painter, has animated his narrative by numerous drawings which are as fresh and as full of humor and gusto as are the adventures of the four boys who encounter fire, storm, and shipwreck. The holiday flavor of the book is borne out by a format in keeping with its content. Java Ho! will be keenly enjoyed by the fathers of boys as well as by the boys themselves.
Another book of common interest to fathers and sons who are sailors at heart is Gordon Grant’s Sail Ho! Windjammer Sketches Alow and Aloft (William Farquhar Payson, $5.00). In a series of sixty-odd drawings accompanied by brief factual text, this marine painter who knows and loves the ways of ships has made an authentic and a very human record of life on board the vanishing sailing ship.
In Sea Dogs of Today (Henry Holt, $2.50) Alan J. Villiers, already distinguished for three books about ships, gives graphic evidence that genuine sea stories are still to be had by those who will go after them as be has done. The true adventures of Captain Larsen, the guiding spirit of modern whaling, of Captain Erikson, the Finnish sea cook who became the last great owner of square-rigged ships, of Foster of the Trevessa, of the Trawlermen of the Far North, of Ronald Walker, are convincingly told, A list of Sailing Ships of the World to-day is given in the appendix.
W. Maxwell Reed explores the universe in The Stars for Sam (Harcourt, Brace, $3.50) and starts not only children of twelve, but older readers also, on the new conceptions of space, time, and matter in a unique presentation of astronomy. The book is written with clarity and imagination by a former instructor of astronomy at Harvard, and the text has been carefully edited by Charles E. St. John and is fully illustrated by many excellent, photographs and colored plates.
For boys of ten and younger, Old Raven’s World, by Jean West Maury (Little, Brown, $2.00), will make a strong appeal. Mrs. Maury has given vitality to her effective rendering of the Old Raven legends of the Tlingit Indians by letting a boy of the tribe tell the stories to the little son of an American army officer stationed in Alaska. The two boys act and talk like real boys in natural situations, and their daily companionship adds an element of human interest to legends which explain the origin of life.
Cornelia Meigs, whose fine stories for older boys and girls are well known, has this year written a notable story of pioneer life, also, for the younger children. The Willow Whistle (Macmillan, $1.75) is not written down; but in a style distinctly her own, and suggestive of the flow of the river which divides her West from the East, Miss Meigs has told a story in which pioneer children, Indians, and buffaloes are described as still enjoying the freedom of the prairie. It is a capital book to read aloud.
Calico Hush, by Rachel Field (Macmillan, $2.00), is a unique addition to stories of pioneer life for older children. The coast of Maine in 1743 is the background, and if the Indians are less vivid than the settlers, that is readily understood. Marguerite Le Doux, the young French girl who is bound out to the family of New England settlers with whom she sails from Marblehead, is a character girls will remember and boys will accept, along with the Maine folk whose speech and ways Miss Field records with the fidelity and charm of natural association.
Douglas of Porcupine (Houghton Mifflin, $2.00) is also a story with the Maine coast for its background. While it contains all the ingredients of the popular mystery story of the day, it is invested with more life and substance than is usual. The author, Mrs. Louise Douglas Kent, has depicted a likable family of children and a resourceful mother. The story of their life on Porcupine Island, while the father of the family is icebound in Hudson Bay, will hold vigorous interest for twelve-year-olds.
Books for children of picture-book age I discussed in the November Atlantic, but I cannot forbear mentioning one more which has recently appeared. The Hole in the Wall, by René D’Harnoncourt (Knopf, $2.00), is, I think, the most spontaneous and the most amusing picture book of the year. It has all the charm of the unpremeditated play of the artist’s fancy in an idle hour. It has the liveliness of the comic strip without its vulgarities, and will appeal to big boys no less than to small ones. Moreover, it is an admirable piece of color printing.
ANNE CARROLL MOORE