Friday, November 13, 2015


Well, the community magazine didn't use this piece for the November issue - but they are using my Hans Christian Anderson piece, and it ends the same way: children must have books. I'll post that piece next month, just to stress that idea.

Who among us has never read anything by Robert Louis Stevenson? Any poem from A Child’s Garden of Verses, or Treasure Island, Kidnapped, even The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or The Master of Ballantrae. Surely you’ve even seen a movie made from one of these classics. Born in Scotland this day in 1850, the midst of the Romantic Era, Stephenson penned several of the books that have become the basics on any list of must-read children’s literature. Classics – if you know little else, you can know the great books that have made their way from print to film.

November is the month when we’ve begun to think of Christmas presents. Surely, for our grandchildren, books are some of the best presents: they’re presents they can open again and again. Along with Stevenson’s books, there is an impressive list of authors who wrote for children.

Along with A.A. Milne, Kenneth Grahame, Beatrix Potter, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll, to writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, J.R. Rowling, Susan Cooper, and Maurice Sendak, there is an impressive list of authors who wrote for children.

Any child’s library should include works like Aesop’s Fables, Mother Goose, The Arabian Nights, a bit of Shakespeare, a bit of mythology, and a good treasury of poetry. Don’t forget Grimm’s and Han’s Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, and perhaps a book of international fairy tales as well.

The shelf for the littlest ones should include books by Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss, A.A. Milne, Eric Carle; books like The Velveteen Rabbit and Goodnight Moon, If Your Give a Mouse a Cookie, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and dozens of Golden Books.

This era of non-sexist child rearing notwithstanding, girls should read books like Treasure Island and boys could learn a lot from Little Women. The shelf for older children should include The Railway Children, Roxaboxen, The Jungle Books, Lewis Carroll’s books about Alice, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Jack London’s books, some of H.G. Welles, and the tales of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Include books by Roald Dahl, Maurice Sendak, and E.B. White. Put modern classics on the shelf: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and…, the books of the Wizard of Earthsea, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Are you There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten one of your favorites. Just be sure to give that favorite to your favorite grandchildren.

But, back to Stephenson. Perhaps because I’ve always loved to go to the beach, the sea-side, this is my favorite of his poems:

 At the Sea-side, From Child's Garden of Verses:

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.

My holes were empty like a cup.
In every hole the sea came up,
Till it could come no more.

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