children’s literature

The Sexual Revolution Turns Ugly

How many intellectuals have come to the revolutionary party via the path of moral indignation, only to connive ultimately at terror and autocracy? ∼ Raymond Aron The Sexual Revolution is now out of control. Initially promising freedom, like all revolutions, it has entered something like its Reign of Terror phase and is devouring its own children. As with [...]

C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew

For those who are concerned with important books, The Magician’s Nephew should be a concern. It is important because in reading this book, the young reader should experience that particular delight when a book surprises you with the completely unexpected. And the surprise at the end of The Magician’s Nephew is of the first order. [...]

Raymond Arroyo’s Latest Will Wilder Novel

If we hope to have a Catholic Literary Revival—the kind for which Dana Gioia called, and which periodicals like Dappled Things and publishers like Wiseblood have been supporting—we need to engage the “tweens.” Or, as modern marketing lingo terms them, the “middle-grade” set. If you have been in one of those old-fashioned places called a [...]

The Weeds and the Wheat in Children’s Literature

“These are weird, but…whatever gets kids to pick up a book,” a librarian in the children’s section said while she pulled books from a shelf and handed them to a woman in the aisle next to me. The mother had asked for recommendations for her son, and I could not help overhearing the conversation. The [...]

Lessons from Lewis: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

A mark of excellent children’s literature is that it appeals to adults. My children insist that I read to them on a daily basis and I insist on reading them books that I too enjoy. Fortunately, it is not very difficult to find such books: ones that I genuinely enjoy reading and that they genuinely [...]

Squirrel Nutkin and the Art of Mischief

Running up and down Yggdrasil, the Tree of trees of Nordic lore, goes Ratatösk the Squirrel. Up and down Yggdrasil Ratatösk runs, making trouble between the eagle that nests in the branches high above and the dragon that gnaws at the roots deep below. The squirrel tells the dragon how the eagle plans to destroy [...]

When Identity Politics Replaces Stories with Mirrors

Marley Dias is the new media darling. She is an articulate 11-year-old in sixth grade in Orange, NJ. Miss Dias has gained attention because of a book drive she launched, #1000blackgirlbooks, by which she hoped to collect 1000 kids’ books with a black girl as the protagonist. Miss Dias was annoyed that her teacher never [...]

Why Children Should Permit Busy Adults to Read Fairy Tales Aloud During Christmastide

I find that there really are human beings who think fairy tales bad for children. I do not speak of the man in the green tie, for him I can never count truly human. But a lady has written me an earnest letter saying that fairy tales ought not to be taught to children even [...]

Saint Paul, Little Women, and Books that Honor Children

“What are you looking for, when you go through the library shelves?” a young mother asked me one day, seeing me on my knees browsing titles in the children’s section. She wanted to know how I decide which books to pick, and I was surprised by how hard it was to find a good answer. [...]

The Importance of Myths and Fairy Tales for Christian Children

Many Christians believe that pagan myths and fairy tales are detrimental to Christian children. They fear that children will be lead astray from their upbringing, but really myths and fairy tales provide a foundation from which to build a Christian education. I was questioned myself by a well-meaning, Catholic relative, who had been asked by [...]

Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Stories

Every child should read Arnold Lobel’s stories of Frog and Toad. These stories are pure, unashamed delight. Once upon a time, all children’s stories were a pleasant romp, an indulgence in something lovely. Think of Mother Goose, The Wind in the Willows, The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan. As our times have [...]

My favorite Children’s Picture Books

Editor’s note: While the following review departs somewhat from the typical essay found at the Civilized Reader, the editors at Crisis believe that time should be given over to consider those books which act as companions and simple friends to the more enduring tales of the imagination.  Hopefully, Mrs. McKeegan’s remarks here will help further the [...]

Picture Books and the Childlike Heart

While some people’s favorite college professors were taking their classes through Dostoyevsky or Dante, my favorite professor was reading us Mem Fox and Patricia Polacco. And more writers of their kind: authors of some of the finest children’s picture books around. The course was “Teaching Reading” for elementary education majors, and the professor, a retired [...]

The Common Core of a Child’s Heart (Part I): The Art and Purpose of Storytelling

Zeal for a national curriculum is not new, nor is the appearance of an entire well-financed educational bureaucracy obsessed with finding (and controlling) methods to justify its educational schemes.  The educational sorcerers may feel that they have conjured up some novel idea in the Common Core Initiative.  They have not, anymore than Alfred Bosworth discovered [...]

Hansel and Gretel—The Fairy Tale School of Fear and Violence

A popular condemnation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales is that they are too violent for children.  Many parents would sooner provide mindless stories with bad art and no story line than something classic like “Hansel and Gretel.”  This is done with a true—though misplaced—concern for their children.  They don’t want their children to be acquainted with [...]

Woe to Those Who Call Trash Treasure and Treasure Trash!

Ah, to know the mind of Aristotle, the man whom Dante called “the teacher of those who know.”  How magnificent to commune with the intellect of Plato, of whom Alfred North Whitehead dared to say: “the European philosophical tradition consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”  Many other ancient writers by their enduring works [...]

What Should Children Read?

In recommending books to be read by young people from the age of seven to the age of twelve, this critic’s problem is not paucity, but plenitude. For the number of good books for young people is large, and it increases every year. So I set down here brief remarks about a select few books [...]

Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels

With imaginative power and biting satire Swift exposes the madness and folly of learning divorced from morals and of reason devoid of feeling and charity—the cold rationalism of the Enlightenment. In “a Voyage to Lilliput” six-inch creatures, not only tiny in size but also petty and small-minded in thought, possess advanced knowledge of mathematics and [...]

Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s School Days

“After all, what would life be like without fighting, I should like to know? From the cradle to the grave, fighting, rightly understood, is the business, the real, highest, honestest business of every son of man. Every one who is worth his salt has his enemies, who must be beaten, be they evil thoughts and [...]

Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio

How does a wooden puppet become a real boy? How does one tame a wild boy full of spirit? When does a boy become a man?  What is the art of educating the young to become refined and civilized?  Pinocchio shows that the wooden puppet—stubborn, slothful, and  thankless--deserves the honor of boyhood when he acquires [...]

The Arabian Nights

“Be sure that you wake me an hour before the dawn, and speak to me in these words: ‘My sister, if you are not asleep, I beg you, before the sun rises, to tell me one of your charming stories.’ Then I shall begin, and I hope by this means to deliver the people from [...]

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