WHILE the number of new titles of children’s books has been greatly reduced and prices have been lowered, books of intrinsic merit have been sustained to a degree that makes the choice of a few titles uncommonly difficult.
In The A B C Bunny (Coward-McCann, $2.00) Wanda Gag has used the letters of the alphabet merely as a springboard for the living bunny she presents in the series of lithographic drawings of surprising freshness, beauty, and strength. It is a memorable tribute to the rabbit in his own right, for within the gay covers of this spacious book all the wildness and the tenderness which belong to a bunny in his native haunts are restored. The lively words of this alphabet set to music by Flavia Gag form the end papers of a. distinguished picture book.
For The Little White Coal, written by Dorothy P. Lat lirop (Macmillan, $£.00), the author has made exquisite drawings. It is such a tale of Midsummer Eve as an imaginative child, with a genuine love of rabbits, fawns, and other little wild creatures, will find true nature and to his own longing to play with his friends the woods. The little white goat with his golden bell is changeling whose charm as revealed in Miss Lathrop drawings is utterly convincing.
Beast, Bird and Fish (Knopf, $1.50), for which Elizabeth Morrow has written the words, Eberhardt. d’Harnoncourt the music, and René d’Harnoncourt has made the pictures, although designed for little children, is a more sophisticated book. The wit and rhythmical quality which are distinguishing characteristics Count d Harnoncourt’s work are here expressed in fresh treatment of strange animals and humans printed in flat colors. Children will greatly enjoy singing such gay little songs as the one to the Jaguar.
Successful color printing by lithography is one of the notable features of children’s books of the year, and striking example of it is to be Seen in Cet-a-tvay and Hary Janos, by Maud and Miska Petersham (Viking Press, $£.00). Lithographs in six colors, with many in black and white, are here superbly reproduced. The story of Get-a-way, a worn-out American cloth horse, and Janos, an old wooden soldier doll from Hungary, will amuse children. Its importance rests upon the place given to toys in any civilization and the quality of interest imparted to children by the very beautiful drawings the Petershams have made for their gay picturebook.
The Conquest of the it Ian lie, written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (Viking Press, $2.50), represents another hue achievement in f he lithographic field. But it. is the range and sweep of imagination, fortified by close observation during several crossings of the Atlantic and by years of selective research in libraries and museums, that give this book its exceptional value to a nine-year-old boy or his older brother. These lithographs in color and in black and white, depicting the Atlantic as ‘ the Sea oT Darkness’ in the Viking age, and down to the final com)nest by airplane, are to be read as authentic documents. The brief, clear, and accurate test provides just enough to stimulate a desire to know more.
Margery Bianco’s The Hurdy Gurdy Man (Oxford University Press, 7,3 cents) hits a flavor of its own which is finely accentuated by the delightful drawings of Robert Lawson. The ‘too neat and prosperous little town,’where the Hurdy Gurdy Man and his monkey were not made welcome, proved just the kind of place Mr. Lawson needed for a playground, and he has drawn with a spontaneity, grace, and care for detail children will thoroughly enjoy. This is a most attractive little book.
In Over the Garden Halt (Stokes, $1.75), Eleanor Farjeon has written a book of verse for children that is full of the sounds and sights and smells of England, touched with the magic of Miss Far jeon s special gift as a poet. ‘Tippetty Witchett’ is my favorite of all the verses, as it was that of the children to whom I read front the book out of doors. The drawings by Gwendolyn Raverut lend distinction.
Under The Big Tree of Bunlahy (Macmillan, $•2.23), Padraic Colum tells ‘stories of my own countryside’ which are comparable only to those he told in The King of Ireland’a Son. Here is a book out of Ireland itself for which Jack Yeats has made many drawings and a lovely frontispiece in color, and Padraic has created the immortal tale of ‘Our Hen.’ With full respect for King Cormac and the others, 1 like that tale best of any in the book. The setting for each of the stories gives great charm to the whole book.
A Boole of American.s, by Rosemary and Stephen React (Farrar & Rinehart, $1,301, seems a daring undertaking Until one begins to read what these two poets have put into verse about their country and their countrymen. Without, having seen the drawings Charles Child has made for the book, the verse itself bids fair to give fresh life to boys and girls who have been starving for living words of American history. It is a book of fine ideas and true associations, as well as one of amusing characterization of American idiosyncrasies.
Glory of the Seas, by Agnes Danforth Hewes (Knopf, $2.00), is the best story I have yet read for older boys and girls. It is a tale of the days of the clipper ships, of Boston Harbor and San Francisco. It is informed in its history, and made alive for any reader because of its line characterization and the wide sweep of the narrative from Coast to Coast and from South to North in the years leading up to the Civil War.
ANNE CARROLL MOORE