children's literature

Tomie dePaola: Making Old Things New

Eastertime rejoices in life, when even things as old as the world are made new again. It is at this time of resurrection that Catholics may also remember those who have passed away in the hope of rising again, and especially those whose memory might be seasoned with the brightness they brought to life by … Read more

Of Mice and Men Without Chests

At first glance one might surmise that the title of this article alludes to the characters in John Steinbeck’s classic. Truthfully, while reading Of Mice and Men I grew to like the characters and found myself empathizing with some of their hardships. A good author is able to pull his readers into the world of … Read more

10 Books That Every Boy Should Hazard

Thanks to the adulterators of children’s literature, the natural anticipations when approaching forgotten classics have been skewed. Everyone expects that everything will be picturesque, nice, and most importantly, safe. For reality is far too dangerous, far too harsh a thing, and children must be protected from it at all costs. Real stories for real boys, … Read more

Why Young Readers Need Real Books

A young lady I know won a Kindle in an academic contest. She is a voracious reader. In eighth grade, she enjoys Austen, Chesterton, Lewis, and Wodehouse, among many others. A trail of books seems to follow her everywhere she goes. Her parents, wary of potential negative effects of screens on growing minds, would have … Read more

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. … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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. … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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