New Books for Children Under Ten
THE best books for children under ten years old are good for any age: they bring refreshment, they add new life to an old tale; best of all, they supply entertainment and surprise.
In Little Black Sambo and the Little Black Twins (Stokes, $1.00) Helen Bannerman has written and illustrated a new adventure story of Little Black Sambo as lively and as satisfying as was her original story, published in England nearly forty years ago. Mrs. Bannerman, now past seventy, created the character of Little Black Sambo for the amusement of her own little girls while living in India. She wisely refrained from projecting a character so universally accepted by children into a series of yearly adventures. Now, after a mellow interval, Mrs. Bannerman has been able to impart to a new tale the freshness and credibility of the old and to achieve, both in pictures and in story, a delightful performance.
Grace Castagnetta and Hendrik Willem Van Loon in The Songs we Sing (Simon and Schuster, $1.00) present an arresting challenge to the present-day banalities of the comic strip. For this charming book of old nursery rhymes and songs Mr. Van Loon has made pictorial accompaniments which are instinct with his feeling for music and informed by his knowledge of musical instruments and the history of music. Every line of the interpretative drawings (in three colors) confirms the skill of the artist in communicating to children the lively interest he sets forth in his preface. Musical settings ‘with a slightly modern tilt’ have been given to the songs by Grace Castagnetta. The originality of the artist s approach and the beauty and gayety of treatment are prophetic of a new order of children’s books for home and school.
Richly and truly educational also in its fresh translation, its fresh illustrations, and its admirable format is Wanda Gág’sTales from Grimm (Coward-McCann, $1.50). The artist explored for years the authoritative German editions of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. Then she made her own selection and proceeded to translate — rather freely — the stories for this volume directly from it. Several of the best tales she discovered were scarcely known in English. ‘Six Servants,’for which she has made inimitable pictures of the ‘Fat One and the Thin One,’ is a good example of the less known group. The illustrations, from the beautiful frontispiece in color, ’Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair,’to the last black and white drawing for ‘The Musicians of Bremen,’ are in the true tradition of the folk tale, freshly rendered with the keenness of perception, the intellectual integrity, and the complete mastery of technique which distinguish the work of Wanda Gág.
While the book is very definitely designed for younger children (who will read it with utmost ease and pleasure), the older reader will relish the new vitality given to tales as familiar as ‘Hansel and Grebel’ by Miss Gág’s pictures and choice of words. She is a natural storyteller.
‘A Spaniard makes one of the gayest and most dramatic storytellers in the world,’ says Ruth Sawyer in her introduction to a delightful small volume, Picture Tales from Spain (Stokes, $1.25). She collected her material in Spain and she sees to it that each of the stories she retells keeps the flavor and vigor of the narrative as she first heard it told by Spanish sailor, muleteer, or goatherd. Carlos Sanchez has made interpretative drawings in black and white which suit the humor and freshness of the tales. Here is a book perfectly adapted for reading aloud — one which will appeal strongly to boys of nine or ten.
Native stories for Three Golden Oranges and Other Spanish Folk Tales (Longmans, $2.00) were first collected by Ralph Steele Boggs in Spain and from various collections familiar to him as a student of folklore. They were then traced to their locales for color and atmosphere, and effectively retold by Mary Gould Davis, who went to Spain for this purpose, accompanied by Emma Brock, who illustrated the tales. The appeal of the book is to somewhat older children.
These two books will give young readers a better understanding of the Spanish people, and are a good antidote for these troubled times.
In Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain (Oxford University Press, $2.00) Edward Ardizzone has taken a memorable seagoing holiday. This largesize picture book in color, with its delightful circumstantial story of five-year-old Tim who lived by the sea and had all the vigorous full-grown adventures of shipboard as a stowaway and cabin boy, will charm equally the small boy and the father who likes a good sea story. Nothing like it has been done half so well, and one feels mighty adventurous after turning its exciting pages.
Ludwig Bemelmans, in his pretty volume, The Golden Basket (Viking, $2.00), also makes a strong appeal to the imagination of an adult. Taking the old Hôtel du Panier d’Or in Bruges for his setting, and two little girls and their English father as travelers, Mr. Bemelmans has put them in such intimate touch with the cook, Monsieur Meulen, and his son Jan, who embody the spirit of art and pride in the smallest service, that they come to love the whole city of Bruges and learn a lot about it. While the story is not so clearly drawn as that of Hansi (Viking, $2.00), which had its origin in Ludwig Bemelmans’s own boyhood in the Austrian Tyrol, it is a book containing the quintessence of the spirit of travel in any land; and, most important of all, it is concerned with the live interests of children rather than with those of the teacher or parent traveler. One has an enlarged conception of Bruges, of all Belgium, after reading and looking at the pictures Mr. Bemelmans has drawn for this book.
And what of our own land? Artists who are able to write their own story or descriptive text are rediscovering, not merely photographing, its people and scenes. Hennery’s Lydia (Doubleday, Doran, $2.00), by Marguerite de Angeli, is a lovely book of all she has seen and felt while living on the edge of a Pennsylvania Dutch community. She has sketched the boys and girls and their elders in their homes, their schools, their markets, and at play. Her lithographs in four colors and in black and white are alive and deeply felt, and her unpretentious text is admirably suited to the pictures and the people.
A charming story of the play life of little girls is told by Julian Meade in Teeny and the Tall Man (Doubleday, Doran, $2.00), for which Grace Paull has made some of her best, drawings. The story begins in North Carolina and is carried over into the children’s school life in New York. Its value is that of a transcript of real life and character in the 1930’s, and this is equally true of One Summer by Martin Gale, illustrated by Margaret Van Doren (Viking, $1.50). A young girl wrote this story of the horses, dogs, swimming meets, and picnics she has known at first hand, and another young girl made the charming line drawings which show a kindred feeling for animals and country life — and incidentally, considerable promise for the future.
War Paint, written and illustrated by Paul Brown (Scribners, $2:00), is a large-size picture book giving interesting information about Indian life and customs, with superb drawings of horses by the foremost American interpreter of horse life.
ANNE CARROLL MOORE