Tell it!

I don’t usually do this, but I agree with Rivka so much that I am actually linking a thread to the Well-Trained Mind Forums.  It asks the questions, “Is ‘quality literature’ necessarily old? Is old literature necessarily ‘quality’?

I love children’s books.  We read a lot of older books here.  We’re currently still working our way through Moomins and Edward Eager, both of which the kids adore.  However, I think you all know that I love new books as well.  New books are constantly coming out that are just as good as older books.  I cannot say how many times I have popped into a thread on that forum to recommend a book and found I was the only one making suggestions for books written in my own lifetime.

Two books we read not too long ago, highlight for me how children’s literature has changed.  In Half-Magic by Edward Eager, written more than 50 years ago, the children reference children’s books of before their era with disdain.  They’d all rather not read the dreadful Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.  I can’t say I much blame them.  But in The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, written just a few years ago, Jane references Magic by the Lake by Edward Eager with joy.  As children’s books have matured over the last century, there have been more and more of them.  Within that, more and more books worthy of the title of “classic” have emerged and are still coming out so that Jane can think of an older book as good, yet also be a character in a wonderful contemporary book herself.

Too many thoughts to finish on this topic.  Maybe I’ll think of more later when I don’t need to go make dinner and the kids aren’t literally wrestling on the bed.

10 thoughts on “Tell it!

  1. I found your blog by way of The Well-trained Mind forum, and I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your temperate views on education…your opinions mesh so well with my inclinations as a new homeschooler. I’ve been trying navigating the maze of all these educational theories and I think I’m ending up as an eclectic homeschooler. I agree with you that new literature can be just as rich as classics, often without the stereotypes and biases.

  2. My kids have always read modern books as well as older books in part because I don’t want them to be culturally impoverished. I have known some homeschool parents who were delighted to report that their children know nothing of popular culture. I’m certainly not going to argue with them about their parenting choices, but this is not the lifestyle for us. I want my kids to be able to engage with popular culture in intelligent ways. We can’t do that if we’re constantly censoring it.

  3. I read through the thread you linked and found that while no one directly addressed it, so many of the responses boiled down to moral issues – I know this is a generalization, but on The WTM forum where a largeer percentage of folks are Christian I can’t say as I’m really all that surprised. It’s a bit like a certain segment of Christian Fundamentalists and their preoccupation with Jane Austen’s time while also glossing over the affluence required for such a lifestyle (thereby likely excluding most of us).

    I’d be willing to bet a predominately group of secular homeschoolers would respond differently.

  4. I agree, Mamaraby, that an all secular group would have a different take for all kinds of reasons. But even among secular homeschoolers, I think followers of classical education or Charlotte Mason (she did coin the hated term “twaddle”) tend to have a knee-jerk reaction that older=better. Most people don’t know children’s literature that well. They only know the classics (Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz sorts of things), the stuff they read as children (whatever it was), and the mega-blockbusters (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and a few big titles). I think coming from having read about “twaddle” and wanting to do things differently from the school system, they use one of the simplest means possible that they *think* will distinguish good from bad, which is the age of the book.

  5. This is why we are drifting away from the Ambleside Online curriculum. I appreciate that they are trying to use books that are available for free online, but I found so many of the choices to be poorly written or insufferably outdated (I share your dislike of The Five Little Peppers–did children ever talk that way, even when it was written?).

    On the other hand, I can see how Ook and Gluk could send parents running into the arms of pre-1900 children’s lit. 🙂

  6. I was going to say something but then I deleted it. Idk, people need to educate themselves. If they learned how to recognize a classic by the quality of its narrative, language and structure, they wouldn’t make the mistake of confusing ‘old’ and ‘classic’. I was going to say something else but I deleted that too 🙂

  7. The children in Half Magic actually reference a number of children’s books they adore, including The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit which was published in 1907. The Five Little Peppers books were published from the late 1800s through about 1916. That is one of the great things about Edward Eager, his love for quality children’s literature shows because he often mentions other books and authors in his books. Birdsall’s references to Half Magic and many other children’s literature (including the Chronicles of Narnia) in her Penderwick series is an homage to Eager.

  8. I had forgotten the Nesbitt references. No one will convince me the Peppers are any good, but Nesbitt is, of course, wonderful. Yes, I also like how in later Eager books, the kids keep referencing the other books he wrote. In the last Penderwicks book, Batty is learning to read Ivy and Bean in the last one. I wonder if that will stand the test of time. It’s one that I see many, many people calling “twaddle” unfortunately.

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