Children’s Books of 1935

EACH year the Atlantic turns to Anne Carroll Moore for an appraisal of the new books for children. For a quarter of a century Miss Moore has been the arbiter of children’s books at the New York Public Library.


I MUST begin by mentioning two books of exceptional originality that were published too late for inclusion in my reviews of last season, both of which well exemplify the fresh conceptions of writing and illustrating for children.
In The Little Book about God (Doubleday, Doran, $1.50) Lauren Ford created and designed for the child she knew best a little book made up of exquisite paintings and embellishments accompanied by a text of rare simplicity and charm. Beauty and gayety, reverence and religion, are here blended in the everyday life of the child after the manner of the thirteenth-century artists in their illumination of manuscripts.
Next, tribute should be paid to Dobry, by Monica Shannon (Viking, $2.00), so well illustrated by Atanas Katchamakoff. The artist’s memories of his childhood and boyhood on his grandfather’s farm in Bulgaria furnish background for this unusual life story of a peasant who was determined to become a sculptor. The text is not derivative, but luminous with the author’s feeling for beauty and clear understanding of life on the land. Dobry received the John Newbery medal for ‘the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in 1934.‘
It is a pleasure to observe the increasing number of vivid books the publishers bring to us from abroad. From Norway come two delightful stories by Hans Aanrud. Sidsel Longskirt and Solve Suntrap (Winston, $2.00) have been translated into clear unforgettable English by Dagny Mortenson and Margery Bianco. Very human and lovable is the quaint little girl Sidsel in the long skirt, herding the goats and sheep in the high mountain pastures and growing up to become head milkmaid at Hoel Farm. Solve, the eight-year-old hero of the second tale, climbs the highest neighboring peak to see the sun dance on Easter morning and achieves the happiness and contentment the sun’s rays promise him. Ingri and Edgar l’arin d’Aulaire have illustrated the book with lithographic drawings in color and in black and white as authentically Norwegian as the text. Although the format does not measure up to the quality of text or pictures, the book is a notable addition to true storybooks for American children.
In Children of the Northlights (Viking, $2.00) the same artists, Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire have created a very beautiful picture-storybook of their own. They went to Lapland to make their sketches, to absorb the colors and other impressions which have gone into the making of a book of perennial interest to children of all ages. Dedicated to Princess Ragnhild and Princess Astrid of Norway, whose parents were traveling in Lapland at the same time and over much of the same route Mr. and Mrs. d’Aulaire took on reindeer sleds, the book supplies a missing link with a joyous company of children who are living to-day at the top of the world and who are as full of fun as they are lovely in looks.
Love of Ireland and a light, touching humor pervade The Turf-Cutter’s Donkey, by Patricia Lynch (Dutton, $2.00). This charming book of the adventures of the turf-cutter’s children, Eileen and Seumas, is best read aloud to children whose imaginations are alight and whose taste for magic and mystery is fortified by familiarity with fairyland and everything in it. The best tribute to Miss Lynch’s text is to be found in the delightful pictures Jack Yeats has made for the book; the pictures — and the prose — make living in Ireland seem at once homelike, enchanting, and adventurous.
From Ireland it is but a step to England, always an enchanted realm for children. One could wish that the American edition of E. Nesbit’sThe Wonderful Garden (Coward-McCann, $1.75), with its fascinating flower lore and lively talk, had been given a reset more worthy of the story. Published in England in 1911, this book had at that time a limited audience among American children. One of the number, Earle Walbridge, writes in an appreciative introduction of translating all of E. Nesbit’s ‘little lovely hills of Kent’ into Vermont settings as he read her tales in the Strand Magazine. Since the American reprinting of The Bastable Children and The Fire Children, there has been a steadily increasing interest in the Nesbit books on the part of American children who have grown more familiar with England.
In When the Wolves Were Running (Macmillan, $2.50), John Masefield has written an adventurous tale of magic and mystery reaching into the ancient past of the English countryside described in Reynard. It is really a sequel to his fantasy, The Midnight Folk, telling of the same harried boy, Kay Harker, who comes home from school for the Christmas holidays.
As a fantastic talc it is perhaps too full of reality and historical import and speculation to be the stuff boys’ dreams are made of, but it makes delightful reading and leaves clear impressions of strange characters and customs.
Arthur Ransome, in The Coot Club (Lippincott, $2.00), has changed his background from the English Lake Country to the Norfolk Broads and has wisely introduced fresh characters who proceed to have no less lively but different adventures. Helene Carter’s well-drawn pictorial maps and illustrations for the Ransome books are giving to many adults as well as to children their first clear impressions of English settings. Mr. Ransome is unquestionably a magnetic writer for children of the present day; he is identified heart and soul with their out-of-door interests and gifted with an inexhaustible capacity for fresh invention and natural conversation.
And now our survey brings us back home, to books of our own. In The Golden Horseshoe (Macmillan, $2.00) Elizabeth Coatsworth has made a living girl of Tamar, child of an Indian princess and a Virginia colonel. Life in Stafford Hall on the James did not content a lass of her spirit and inheritance. Disguised as an Indian boy, she goes on General Spotswood’s great expedition. Robert Lawson’s decorative drawings are in the passive rather than the active tradition of colonial Virginia.
Eliza Orne White, in Ann Frances (Houghton Mifflin, $1.75), has achieved the kind of character which has proved the Waterloo of most writers. Ann Frances, aged five, is a real little girl who comes out of her book to companion a reader of any age. Her talk and her doings are entirely credible. One would like Ann Frances for a friend.
In Across the Cotton Patch (Nelson, $1.50) Ellis Credle has made an American picture-storybook in which Negro children of the South are drawn and written about with spontaneity, humor, and affection. Miss Credle’s illustrations for this book are stronger than those of Down, Down the Mountain.
Rainbow in the Sky (Harcourt, Brace, $3.00) is the happy title Louis Untermeyer has given to his anthology of poetry for the younger children. Reginald Birch has made spirited pen-and-ink drawings for many of the verses. It is a jolly big book, for Mr. Untermeyer has been hospitable rather than selective in his choice. Recent poetry and verse are more fully represented than in any other anthology for children.