I SHALL claim at once for the older children, from twelve years upward, three books of the year from the publications for adults. Hendrik Van Loon’sThe Arts (Simon and Schuster, $3.95) was so admirably reviewed in the November Atlantic as to need only a lowering of the age level of fifteen years suggested by Mr. Nock to make it available for a whole family of various ages and tastes. It stems from the same rich source as The Story of Mankind, the book which, it may be remembered, was the first to receive the Newbery Medal as the most distinguished contribution to literature for children published in 1921.
Animal Treasure (Viking, $3.00), bv Ivan T. Sanderson, is one of the most fascinating and satisfying books about animal life that I have ever read. West Africa is its background, and the sweep of the narrative, the authenticity of the record of wild life observed at first hand in the virgin forest, along the rivers, in the treetops, on the mountains, in the great waters and ‘all over the place,’ will be quite as appealing to growing boys as to grown men. Interest in animal life is perennial and ageless. The author has made the precise and interesting drawings which illustrate it, and the publishers have given it a format which is a delight to the eye.
My third selection from the adult field is The Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale (Macmillan, $2.50), a keen critic as well as a true poet. Miss Teasdale’s Rainbow Gold, an anthology for children, gave her a place of her own long ago for girls entering the teens. Her Collected Poems will be a most acceptable gift to them.
From another American poet who combines the insight of the critic with the poet’s skill in the choice of words there comes a biography of uncommon clarity and beauty. In The Boy Shelley (Dodd, Mead, $2.00) Laura Benét has written a biography covering the poet’s childhood and his years at Eton which calls forth the admiration of true lovers of Shelley of any age. It is at once discriminating and calculated to put boys and girls of to-day in living touch with a poet of another century. It ranks, in my judgment, as one of the few biographies written for young people worthy of a permanent place. I cannot speak as strongly for its illustration and format. It is a distinguished piece of work in a commonplace setting.
Two books which have been given a printing and format in keeping with the quality of their text and illustration should be mentioned. The White Stag (Viking, $2.00), written and illustrated by Kate Seredy, is a retelling of the epic tale of the Huns and Magyars which springs from the author-artist’s childhood memories of hearing it told by her father in Hungary. It comes alive as a hero tale for American boys and girls. The drawings are the strongest and most dramatic of any Kate Seredy has done. The format achieves a book which lies warm in the hand as a holiday gift.
In Seven Simeons (Viking, $2.00) Boris Artzybasheff has retold an old Russian folk tale and illustrated it with brilliant line drawings in red and green and black and gold. This story of the great King Doldar and the seven accomplished brothers who lived peaceably within his realm is witty and wise in its own right. Under the artist’s gifted pen it has also become gay and airy, filled with fresh sunshine and beauty. It is a large-size picture book not merely for a family of varying ages, but for the collector of beautiful books.
Since this is a pre-holiday review I may venture to speak out of long experience of the value boys and girls place on the look and feel of the books they receive as holiday gifts for their own libraries.
In Medieval Days and Ways (Macmillan, $2.50) Gertrude Hartman strikes a clear, authentic note among a welter of quasi-mediæval storybooks. In attractive form and with the accompaniment of many pictures taken from old manuscripts and early printed books, the author gives an authentic picture of life in the Middle Ages in readable form.
The Lost Queen of Egypt (Stokes, $2.50), a novel for girls by Lucile P. Morrison, is such a book about Egypt as has never been available before. It centres about the romance of the little-known wife of the young king Tutankhamen. Slow-moving at the outset from the weight of source material which has not been fully assimilated, this book emerges as a very real re-creation of life and character firmly rooted in a reliable background. The illustrations are live copies of source material. It will be eagerly read by girls or boys with a real interest in Egypt.
In Beggars of Dreams (Dodd, Mead, $2.00) Mary Brewster Hollister has described the life of a young Chinese girl who goes from a mountain village to live in a city. There is a natural charm about this story which makes delightful reading. The pictures by Kurt Wiese are in harmony with a text in which the festivals are given their natural place in Chinese life.
From far countries we are blown eastward by Wind of the Vikings (Appleton, $2.00), a fine breezy adventurous tale of the Orkney Islands by Maribelle Cormack. This story of a spirited modern girl, an American by birth, who returns to the island of Eday, the home of her ancestors, and explores it for treasure, is an unusual one and gives a graphic picture of a way of life unfamiliar to boys and girls of to-day. The search for Viking treasure is captivating.
Girls have fared better than boys in the books of our own country. One of the best I have read is The Great Tradition by Marjorie Hill Allee (Houghton Mifflin, $2.00), a realistic picture of hard work and good times during a year of graduate work at the University of Chicago. The problems of adjustment of personalities living together in an apartment as well as in university relations are treated with skill and wisdom without impeding the pace of the story.
In Sue Barton, Student Nurse, published last winter, the vocational story assumed new and larger proportions. Thanks to the author, Helen Dore Boylston, it showed more life and character than its predecessors in other fields. Her story of a big metropolitan hospital was clearly drawn from life. The first book has been popular with girls, who will now welcome its sequel, Sue Barton, Senior Nurse (Atlantic Monthly Press and Little, Brown, $2.00).
Two other vocational books should be mentioned: Emma Bugbee’sPeggy Covers the News and this year’s Peggy Covers Washington (Dodd, Mead, $2.00). This swift-moving story of the life behind the scenes in a large newspaper office holds definite interest for girls who realize it is the experience of a veteran newspaper woman they are reading.
The book with which I would end this all too incomplete holiday review is Who Rides in the Dark? (Harcourt, Brace, $2.00), a stirring adventure story for boys by Stephen W. Meatier. The background is New Hampshire in stagecoach days, and the thrill the capture of a notorious highwayman. Mr. Meader knows how to tell a good story for boy or man.