Friday, 25 June 2010

I collect children's books - or perhaps "rescue"

them might be more accurate. We are in danger of losing a lot of children's literature. It is out of print. Even if it was in print there is no space on library shelves and no budget to buy it. There are still some old classics around of course but the books I read and then studied in my children's literature course are largely forgotten. They are even becoming more rare in secondhand bookshops.
Most younger library users will never come across John Verney, Philippa Pearce, Lucy M Boston, John Rowe Townsend, Geoffrey Trease, Elizabeth Goudge or Cynthia Harnett. If they are fortunate their parents might have kept the occasional Lorna Hill ballet book or one of Ivan Southall's Simon Black series. If they did read these authors I wonder what they would make of them. There are no computers, no mobile 'phones, and little mention of television. Even the Carnegie Medal winners from the past can appear dated. It really is a matter of the past being another country and doing things differently there.
There are children who do read these things of course. I see them occasionally. They borrow books from me and, no doubt, other people like me. I am anxious until the books are returned but if I do not loan them then they will not be read. There will be one less child who will experience the magic of a journey down a river or by horseback, one less child who will confront the issues behind "The Dolphin Crossing" or "The Silver Sword".
I came across a book on the 'sale' shelf of the local library yesterday. It is a reference book that never saw the library shelves. It remained on the staff shelves. It has been well thumbed. It is concerned with sequels from the Iliad onwards. I paid a couple of dollars for it.
There will be things I do not know about in this book. When I do know about them I will continue to hunt, to add to my collection. It is not just my collection though, it belongs to anyone who reads. It is our received memory and my duty to be a good custodian of it.


Frances said...

You will, (I hope) be pleased to know that year 7 at a local high school have been reading "The Silver Sword" in English class.
My 12 years old informant loves it, and her eyes glow when she speaks of it.

catdownunder said...

I am impressed! Great!

Anonymous said...


I love reading but my preference for illustrated books is reflected in my other passion, quilting, and in particular designing the quilts.

I collect and rescue books too, but the children's section has been for a younger age group, adding to the Suess books of my two kids, and bookss from my childhood, but also the new illustrated books. (The new illustrated children's books are wonderful.)

However, the kids I buy for are growing up and into the preteen age, so I am now adding books with more words to my own collection as well as theirs, and finding a new world of books I never found in my school libraries.

Judy B

Charlotte said...

So many of the older children's books I habe been loving and hoarding for years (including all my Lorna Hills) are girls' books. I was so looking forward to sharing them with my daughters, but instead ended up with two boys. I do not think they will appreciate, for example, the ouvre of Elsie Oxenham...oh well. Maybe I will have grand daughters down the line...

But I am going to make sure they read The Silver Sword. And Dolphin Crossing--I love both those books!

catdownunder said...

Hello Charlotte, I prowled across to your place and found another long list to read!