Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Power of NO! - Closing Doors

John Tierney has an interesting article in the February 26th, 2008 New York Times, The Advantages of Closing a Few Doors.

He is reporting on the incapacity of even some of our brightest and most intellectually accomplished people to focus on what is most important to them. What the article highlights is an instinctive desire on the part of most people to keep open options, even past the point where the cost of keeping those options open becomes material and reduces the rewards of what we are actually trying to accomplish.

"Most people can't make such a painful choice, not even the students at a bastion of rationality like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Dr. Ariely is a professor of behavioral economics. In a series of experiments, hundreds of students could not bear to let their options vanish, even though it was obviously a dumb strategy (and they weren't even asked to burn anything).

The experiments involved a game that eliminated the excuses we usually have for refusing to let go. In the real world, we can always tell ourselves that it's good to keep options open.

You don't even know how a camera's burst-mode flash works, but you persuade yourself to pay for the extra feature just in case. You no longer have anything in common with someone who keeps calling you, but you hate to just zap the relationship.

Your child is exhausted from after-school soccer, ballet and Chinese lessons, but you won't let her drop the piano lessons. They could come in handy! And who knows? Maybe they will."

This last of course hits close to home. Having lived abroad many years, one of the many things we see that distinguishes the US from most other countries is just how over-scheduled people here become and I think it is a function, partly of culture (Americans are notable for always trying to improve things) but also, simply, of raw wealth.

Even the poorest quintile of Americans have more possessions and wealth than the middle classes of most countries in the world. With this wealth comes a surfeit of opportunities and choices and I think to some degree we become seduced by this cornucopia, we reach for just that one extra thing that might be fun, we try to squeeze in just one more event. And suddenly, everyone feels over-scheduled, stressed and wondering how they can be so well off and yet so overwhelmed.

For those of us trying to foster of love reading among children it does mean, almost as a corollary, choosing to accept a slower, less crowded life. And I think that is a good thing, but very counter to everything that is going on in the environment around us. I know our kids love having quiet time where they can just kick-back and enjoy a good read. But that means there is some club, some sport, some other activity which they could do, and which they might even enjoy doing, but which they (or we as parents) have elected not to do in order to have the time to savour reading.

It is one more of those duties/burdens of parenthood, particularly for parents wanting to foster a love of reading - giving our children one of the most precious gifts of all. Not a gift of toys, or TV, or clubs or sports. The gift of time to themselves to discover an even wider world where they are in command, a world where time is their own. And of course the books that open up that magic door.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The constancy of a bibliophile's love

I think one of the special privileges accorded to the condition of being a bibliophile is a certain constancy in one's literary loves and passions. It is not always the case. Sometimes one returns to a well loved book only to discover that the reader has moved on and the excitement or significance no longer resides in the dead pages.

More often though, a bibliophile returns again and again to the magic of a particular tale or author and is rewarded with the same elixir of wonder, enchantment, excitement or fascination that first captured them. In a world of such unremitting progress and change, this constancy is a magical treat. Vincent Starrett (1886-1974), veteran journalist and Sherlock Holmes scholar, captured this special state of captured enchantment:

"Shall they not always live at Baker Street? Are they not there this moment as one writes? Outside, the hansoms rattle through the rain, and Moriarty plans his latest devilry. Within, the sea coal flames upon the hearth and Holmes and Watson take their well-won ease. So they will live for all that love them well: in a romantic chamber of the heart, in a nostalgic country of the mind, where it is always 1895."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Awards as predictors of quality

Here at Through the Magic Door, we are always playing with different ideas about how to identify books that are likely to be of lasting interest to children. Recently one of the questions that arose was: How good are the mainstream awards at predicting lasting interest in a book?

So we decided to look into it.


We settled on a handful of awards based on their longevity, consistency of application, availability of the information, etc. We included both primary winners (Medal) as well as runners-up (Honor awards). Based on these criteria we used the following awards:

Bank Street (and its later specializations)



Horn Book Fanfare

Kate Greenaway


We used "ready availability" as a proxy for "lasting interest", recognizing the drawbacks associated with that definition. "Ready availability" we defined as available through a major distributor in a standard format. In this instance we used Baker & Taylor. We excluded from ready availability those books only available; through used book venues, as on-demand print versions, and those through high-end/very specialized publishers. We recognize that there is a capriciousness in equating lasting interest to only those being available at this particular snapshot in time but think that it is as viable an approximation as the many alternatives and has the benefit of being readily determined in objective fashion.

With these definitions, we then went back and looked at the award winners from 75 years ago (1932, 7 titles receiving awards), 50 years ago (1957, 15 titles receiving awards), 25 years ago (1982, 31 titles receiving awards), 10 years ago (1997, 40 titles receivng awards), and 5 years ago (2002, 29 titles receiving awards).

We then looked at which of those were still readily available at all (in any format such as paperback, hardback, library binding, etc.), those that were only available in a single format (such as only in paperback or only available in hardback), and finally those that were out-of-print.


The results of this analysis were as follows:

Out-of-PrintSingle FormatMultiple Formats
5 Years8%32%60%
10 Years20%25%55%
25 Years55%19%26%
50 Years53%7%40%
75 Years86%0%14%

Two or three things leap out at me.

Attrition Rate is Pretty Steep

75 years after their recognition, 85% of the winners are out of print. In this instance, among the seven Newberry Award winners of 1932, only Rachel Fields' Calico Bush is still in print. Of the other winners that year (Marjorie Hill Allee's Jane's Island, Mary Gould Davis's Truce of the Wolf and Other Tales of Old Italy, Dorothy P. Lathrop's Fairy Circus, Eloise Lownsbery's Out of the Flame, Eunice Tietjen's Boy of the South Seas, and Laura Adams Armer's Waterless Mountain), several sound interesting but I don't recognize many/any of them and don't see them among the many lists of favorites that I routinely review. Calico Bush I do recognize, know it is still read in schools as assigned reading but is also read by children under their own volition and is generally well liked by those that have read it. So, it sounds like the Newberry folk got it about right seventy-five years ago.

None-the-less, there is, to me, a surprisingly high attrition rate such that more than half the award winners just a generation ago (1982, 25 years) are out of print.

Data Anomaly Regarding Awards from 25 and 50 Years Ago

Bucking the general trend of steady declines in availability at different points over the seventy-five year period, there is a plateau at the twenty-five and the fifty year mark where approximately 45% of the original winners remain in print. I think the anomaly here is the fifty year mark and my specualtion would be that there is a false high level of in-prints owing to publishers marking "50th Anniversary" type milestones with re-releases. This is perhaps coroborated by the fact that there is a steady decline in the number of books in single formats but there is a reversal of the trend in the number available in multiple formats at the fifty year mark, which is what you would expect if publishers were re-releasing special edition hardbacks in addition to the available paperbacks.

Increasing Message Density

There seems to have been a break point between twenty-five and fifty years ago where the "message density/sophistication" of children's books suddenly took a leap forward. Among the eleven winners (even restricting it to Caldecott, Newberry, Greenaway, and Carnegie) in 1982, you do not find any real counterparts in 1957 to Chris van Allsburg's Jumanji, Nancy Willard's A Visit to William Blake's Inn, Siegal Aranka's Upon the Head of the Goat or Maurice Sendak's Outside Over There. You might argue that some of those are darker books but there were some dark winners in 1957. It strikes me that the distinctive difference is that some are darker in a different, more primal way but more than that, they are visually more sophisticated, they imply an expectation of a greater level of world knowledge than earlier winners, and that there is a much more subtle/nuanced perspective in the stories than is prevelant earlier.

Author/Illustrator Gender

Not really sure what to make of it but it is notable that 100% of the author/illustrators that were winners seventy-five years ago were female. From the fifty year mark onwards, the proportion of author/illustrator award winners that were male has varied up and down at each milestone between the ranges of 35 and 45%. Was there a sudden flood of men into the field of children's literature? Were the awards captive to a gender bias for a while early on? Was 1932 just an anomaly? Interesting questions.

The dog that didn't bark

When analyzing data, you always look for what's not there. In this instance, we know the numbers and titles for the books that were given awards and which of them have lasted. But what about other books published in each of those years that might not have received awards but that are recognized as enduringly popular?

That's quite an exercise in data analysis which I will put off for another day. Just as a quick reality check though, there are some interesting highlights. I have aggregated the bibliographies of a dozen or so 20th century children's authors/illustrators and done just a quick spot check.

For 1932, even with this tiny sampling, there are a couple of books that probably ought to be noted as more persistent in popularity including Kurt Wiese's illustrated version of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, and certainly Walter R. Brooks' Freddy the Detective.

Looking at fifty years ago we see John Langstaff's Over in the Meadow as still being available, along with Walter R. Brooks' Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans, and Rosemary Sutcliff's The Silver Branch.

Down the road then, we will construct a database that lets us look at books published in the respective years and will then capture those that are still in print and are readily acknowledged in hindsight as being superior books whether or not they ever received an award.

Next Steps

We will at some point, as described above, look at what books printed in the past, escaped the attention of award programs but which have endured and won popular attention over time. With this information we will then be able to see the balance effectiveness in the past of identifying great books that would last over time.

The other project we will pursue is to collate the winners of the various awards for 2007 and invite TTMD community members to identify which of the award winners will last how long into the future (using the degradation map we have already developed) as well as which non-award winning books might most likely remain popular into the future.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Almost too good to believe

From Robert Hendrickson's The Literary Life and Other Curiosities.

In promoting Simon & Schuster's children's book Doctor Dan and the Bandage Man, publisher Richard Leo Simon decided to give away six Band-Aids with each copy. "Please ship half-million Band-Aids immediately," he wired a friend at Johnson & Johnson. He soon received the reply: "Band-Aids on the way. What the hell happened to you?"

Genius at a discount

The Spectator (of the UK) has a review by Sam Leith of Peter Ackroyd's new book, Poe: A Life Cut Short (not yet available in the US). Referencing Poe's always present financial problems, in the review he mentions that:

It was calculated, says Ackroyd, that the total income from all Poe's books, over 20 years, was $300.

About $8,500 in today's money. One more case of worth not being recognized when it would have been useful to the author.

Gotta love those kids

From Tom Stanton's forward to his Hank Aaron and the Home Run that Changed America.

In the early months of the 1973 baseball season, when reports surfaced about the odious mail souring Hank Aaron's home-run pursuit, something stupendous happened. Tens of thousands of children - from San Antonio, Texas, to Salem, Oregon, from Marshfield, Wisconsin, to Mt. Vernon, New York, and myriad places in between - set out individually to lift Hank Arron's spirits. This earnest, youthful army, raised on Brady Bunch do-good and swayed by the words of Tob 40 philosophers like Bill Withers ("Lean on me . . . I'll help you carry on"), rallied to Aaron's side.

Through the eyes of these children, it seemed a simple morality play, the line dividing right from wrong as sharp and crisp as the one separating fair territory from foul on the ball diamonds of our youths. The solution seemed just as simple: Write a letter. That it occurred to so many of us at once testifies to something universal in the unjaded heart. That we thought our letters alone could eradicate the evil heaped upon our hero affirms our age and naiveté.

I sent my letter that spring, in the twelfth year of my life, decorating the white envelope with red and blue markers, the patriotic colors of the Braves. In summer, a note of thanks came from Atlanta, Georgia, accompanied by a postcard signed, "To Tom. Best wishes. Hank Aaron." Of course, given the quantity of mail, there was no human way for Aaron to have personally answered my letter. But I was convinced he had, and his words endeared him to me. It's not a unique story. That year, Hank Aaron received more mail than anyone but the president.

There is a common adage, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.' - Wonderful seeing children instinctively standing up to evil in its various forms.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Time Travel

To have time travel, you have to have some concept of time. When do kids begin to comprehend time, its flow and its mystical nature? Based on my own sampling of three, kids come to a concept of time at very different points in their development and once there, have a highly variable engagement with time as a measurement system. One of ours knows the time to the minute, always has known and always will know exactly what time it is, knows who is supposed to be where, how long it is likely to take to get there and just how long it will take to do whatever it is that needs to be done. I have another who has to stand and think a minute to determine what day of the week it is much less where he is supposed to be, what he is supposed to be doing, or how long it might take.

Because of this variability, there is no easy way to predict when a child will begin to engage with a story that involves time travel, but once they do it is a fascinating room in the house of children's literature to explore.

There are a number of good reasons to encourage children to read time travel stories. Stories that take you back into time can be revelatory: "the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there." When read from this perspective, this type of time travel story, where the protagonist is whisked off to a different century, is not much less than historical fiction rendered vicariously. The reader doesn't read the history directly but reads it indirectly through the experiences of the time-traveling protagonist. But it is still basically history or historical fiction.

Related to this revelatory aspect (Is that how they did it then?), time travel stories help build the imagination of the reader. It is not just the facts of existence in the past but how those facts shaped what was done. Those facts help children expand their imagination about what it would be like to live in entirely different circumstances. And by building imagination, you begin to build the capacity for empathy. Louis MacNeice's poem, The Gloomy Academic, captures this sense of adjusting to a past as it was rather than as we might wish it to have been.

The Gloomy Academic
by Louis MacNeice

The Glory that was Greece: put it in a syllabus, grade it
Page by page
To train the mind or even to point a moral
For the present age:
Models of logic and lucidity, dignity, sanity,
The golden mean between opposing ills...
But I can do nothing so useful or so simple;
These dead are dead
And when I should remember the paragons of Hellas
I think instead
Of the crooks, the adventurers, the opportunists,
The careless athletes and the fancy boys,
The hair-splitters, the pedants, the hard-boiled sceptics
And the Agora and the noise
Of the demagogues and the quacks; and the women pouring
Libations over graves
And the trimmers at Delphi and the dummies at Sparta and lastly
I think of the slaves.
And how one can imagine oneself among them
I do not know;
It was all so unimaginably different
And all so long ago.

Time travel stories give children the power to not just learn more and imagine more but also open the gateway of contingency thinking. What would happen if X had not happened? Would there be Y today? The capacity to understand the nature of contingency (if this happens then that is likely to happen) is a critical milestone towards adult thinking and responsibility.

Related to this understanding of consequences and contingency is an increasingly sophisticated understanding of some of the philosophical complexities interwoven in the concept of time travel best characterized by the classical conundrum and inherent contradiction of a time traveler going to the past and killing an ancestor, the consequence being that the time-traveler would not be born in which case the ancestor would never be killed, and around and around. It's like giving the kids a Möbius strip for the first time and their bewilderment as they suddenly realize it only has one side.

It is only a short step from the mental exercises of exploring the logic of action in a time travel scenario to becoming interested in the physics of it. Over the years I have noticed how often many scientists have indicated a childhood interest in sci-fi and fantasy books. Their thinking got kick-started somewhere.

The mechanics of time travel in children's stories usually fall into four or five categories. The classic and one of the first, was of course, H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (published in 1895) in which the unnamed Time Traveler builds a time machine that carries him forward to different points in time. He does not travel geographically, just in time. When he returns, he returns to a point very near in time to his departure. Many time travel stories have this feature - regardless of the crowded events that might occur in their time traveling, they are not noticed to have been gone or have not been gone long.

It is of course not always a time machine that carries the protagonist backwards or forwards. Sometimes it is an incantation, sometimes some sort of a portal such as the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The Chronicles of Narnia offer an example of another category, i.e. moving beyond time. Lucy, Peter, Edmund and Susan clearly travel to a different place. They must also be time traveling because, though there is a long elapsed period while they are gone, they return to the time of their departure. And yet they haven't traveled to a recognizable place in time. It is almost as if they have traveled beyond the constraints of time. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time is another example of this type of time traveling - traveling beyond time.

Another category of time travel is where the time travel occurs in the present; a different time comes to you in the present. Fog Magic by Julia Sauer is an example of this type of time traveling. The protagonist, Greta Addington, a young girl in Nova Scotia, Canada, finds she can visit an old fishing village, Blue Cove but only through the magic of a particular fog. She doesn't go to a different point in time, it is rather there for her to discover in her own time. In situ time travel as it were. Another example of this type of time travel would be Tom's Midnight Garden.

A variation in this category is some of those turn-of-the-last-century type fantasy stories where adventurers discover a missing land in which time has stood still. They travel geographically to a place where time has been arrested. Not time travel per se but pretty close. The Time Land Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs and The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would both fall into this category.

Similar to this type of time travel is a plot in which the author leaves it unclear as to whether time travel is occurring at all. The classic example of this might be the wonderful stories by L.M. Boston, The Children of Green Knowe. The protagonist, Tolly, goes to live with his great-grandmother in their family home. While there, he discovers three ancestral children from the 17th century with whom he plays and shares adventures. They are not ghosts, nor are they here-and-now children but something altogether other: the past sharing the present. Daphne du Maurier does something similar with her House on the Strand.

These are all wonderfully engaging stories and styles of time travel story telling. Some styles may appear to be more attuned to one child's tastes than another but once they have been bitten by the time bug, most children will happily read across all the styles.

Below is a potpourri of time travel tales. We hope you enjoy. Safe travels!

Independent Readers

Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander Suggested

Something Upstairs by Avi Suggested

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks Highly Recommended

The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey Recommended

A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond Recommended

The Children of Green Knowe by L. M. Boston and illustrated by Peter Boston Highly Recommended

Stonewords by Pam Conrad Suggested

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper Highly Recommended

Edward Eager's Tales of Magic : Half Magic, Knight's Castle, the Time Garden, Magic by the Lake by Edward Eager Recommended

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer and illustrated by Chris Connor Suggested

The 13th Floor by Sid Fleischman and illustrated by Peter Sis Suggested

A Girl Called Boy by Belinda Hurmence Suggested

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle Highly Recommended

The Root Cellar by Janet Louise Swoboda Lunn Suggested

The Story of the Amulet by Edith Nesbit and illustrated by H. R. Millar Recommended

Bed-Knob and Broomstick by Mary Norton and illustrated by Erik Blegvad Recommended

Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce and illustrated by Susan Einzig Recommended

Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer Recommended

Time Warp Trio by Jon Scieszka Suggested

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells Recommended

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen Receommended

Young Adults

The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs and illustrated by J. Allen St. John Recommended

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle Recommended

The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier Highly Recommended

A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain Suggested

L. Frank Baum

Born May 15, 1856 in Chittenango, New York
Died May 6, 1919 in Hollywood, California

What an inventive gift giver he was, L(yman) Frank Baum. "The man behind the curtain", "the cowardly lion", "the tin man", "We're not in Kansas anymore"; our language and culture are distinctly peppered with his legacy, but it was a legacy the magnitude of which he did not quite comprehend. His life was characterized by innovation, commercial daring and serial commercial failure before finally beginning to find some success with his writings for children.

Baum was a man of many parts. In his time he turned his hand, with varying degrees of success, to an astonishing range of activities, ever seeking some financial security for himself, his wife and four boys. As many things as he tried, it is surprising just how many he turned out to be at least reasonably good at, but always it seems, the timing was just not right, or he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The path towards success was not smooth, straight or even and included stints as manager of an opera house; founder and manager of a theatrical company; playwright, actor; musical composer and lyricist; axle grease manufacturer and salesman; department store founder and manager; newspaper publisher; journalist; newspaper editor; traveling salesman selling chinaware; founder of a trade journal called The Show Window for window trimmers; theatrical producer; and, finally, founder of a film company.

In every one of these endeavors Baum brought enthusiasm, optimism, a sense of the dramatic and an enduring inventiveness. In some ways, Baum was your classic entrepreneur, but one whose business endied up being writing children's stories.

Born May 15th, 1856 in upstate New York in the small town of Chittenango, (west of Syracuse), Baum was the sixth child of Benjamin Ward Baum and his wife Cynthia Stanton Baum. Three of Baum's older siblings died in their infancy or childhood and Baum himself was plagued with a bad heart which restricted his activities as a child. In all, there were nine children, four of whom died in their infancy.

The family into which he was born was relatively prosperous. His father was a barrel-maker but had made a fortune in the early days of the Pennsylvania oil fields. He grew up in the family mansion, Rose Lawn, surrounded by acres and acres of lawn and grounds. Because of his poor health, most of Baum's education was conducted at home. He had a brief and unhappy spell (two years) when he was twelve at the Peekskill Military Academy before returning home. At fifteen, his father purchased a small printing press from which Baum and his brother published a neighborhood paper, The Rose Lawn Journal.

In 1881, at the age of twenty-six, Baum set off to New York to pursue a career in theater. Family productions had been a feature of life at Rose Lawn and early on Baum had been smitten with a love of the theater. He toured with a small repertory company and then, with the financial backing of an uncle, opened Baum's Opera House. Unfortunately this structure burned down within a year of opening. In the meantime, Baum had written the music and lyrics for a musical The Maid of Arran, which he then produced. Starting in the hinterlands, The Maid of Arran proved to be a popular success and ultimately arrived in New York.

It was at this time, 1882, that Baum met his soon-to-be wife, Maude Gage, daughter of noted suffragist, Matilda Gage. Maude Gage was at that point a sophomore at Cornell University and her mother Matilda vigorously objected to the marriage both on the grounds of finishing her education as well as on the somewhat chancy prospects of the groom as an actor. Maude Gage, however, was convinced that this was the man for her and they married in November, 1882 and remained happily wed until Baum's death nearly forty years later. And despite her well-founded misgivings, we owe Matilda Gage a debt of gratitude for it was her promptings years later that led Baum to record the stories he had created for his children.

At the conclusion of the successful run of The Maid of Arran, Baum and his wife returned to Syracuse where he entered the family oil business, eventually marketing a manufactured axle grease invented by one of his brothers.

Baum's father passed in 1887 as did the family fortune. Maude Baum had many family members who had moved west to the newly opened Dakota territories and in 1888 Frank and Maud along with their two young sons moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota, a small boom town of 3,000. Baum used the accumulated capital from his axle grease business to open a department store in Aberdeen. Unfortunately the timing, as so often in his life, was disastrous: the boom petered out and the upscale department store had to close its doors within a year.

Drawing, perhaps, on his youthful publishing experience, Baum then launched a newspaper, the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. Striking a reasonably progressive editorial tone as an advocate of women's suffrage, Baum was no more commercially successful with his newspaper than his earlier ventures and the doors were closed in 1891 as the local population shrank following the earlier boom.

At this point Baum had a wife and four sons to support so they moved to Chicago where Baum quickly got - and then resigned from - a post as an editor at the Chicago Post. Once again Baum returned to an old demonstrated skill, this time selling not axle grease, but crockery. While it was not a job likely to fulfill such an imaginative and venturesome person, it did put bread on the table.

Baum was a gifted story-teller and loved to entertain his children with tales he retold and tales he made up. He had a particular love of language, words and puns. With his extensive travel in pursuit of sales, he had plenty of time to write out stories that he could then tell his boys on his return. Hearing her son-in-law entertaining the boys with these tales, Matilda Gage suggested that Baum collect these stories and publish them as a book. Which he did.

In 1897, Way & Williams brought out Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum. Interestingly it was the first book for his illustrator as well, Maxfield Parrish who went on to a distinguished illustration and art career as well. While having written a handful of pamphlets in the 1870's, plays in the 1880's and newspaper's in the early 1890's this, at the age of forty-one was Baum's first book.

In a missive to his sister at about this time, Baum indicated that, "When I was young, I longed to write a great novel that should win me fame. Now I am getting old, my first book is written to amuse children. For, aside from my evident inability to do anything 'great,' I have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp which, when caught, is not worth the possession; but to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own rewards."

Mother Goose in Prose was reasonably well received and Baum wrote a second book, Father Goose: His Book. Unlike the black and white illustrations of the first book, and showing that flair for the visually dramatic that characterized so much of his work, Baum worked with the illustrator, W.W. Denslow, to richly illuminate the tales with color. The cost of this brave departure from custom was so expensive that, at first, they were unable to find a publisher and when they did, they had to pay for the first printing themselves. However, their confidence in their approach was well placed and Father Goose: His Book, which came out in 1899, proved to be a popular and commercial success.

While starting his career as an author, Baum naturally also quit his job as a crockery salesman and started, of all things a trade journal, The Show Window, providing guidance on developing effective window displays. While at first sight this might seem completely out of the blue, keep in mind that it played to his publishing experience, his retail experience and his love of the theatric. In the midst of his developing career as an author, The Show Window was actually quite a success as well.

For his book after Father Goose, Baum created a story which "aspires to be a modernized fairy-tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares left out." Such was the genesis of what became The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As with Father Goose, and still in collaboration with W.W. Denslow, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was replete with color plates and more than a hundred illustrations scattered through the text.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was an instant hit. Why? is a fair question not well answered over the years. It just is, and still captures the hearts of modern readers. Some of the reasons advanced for its popularity have been:

• It is a new fairy tale, far lighter on the moralizing than past stories.

• The protagonist, Dorothy Gale, characterized pragmatic, outdoorsy, determined American children with whom they more readily identified than previous characters in children's stories.

• It was distinctively illustrated compared to past fare.

• Oz made greater use of typically American (rural) imagery such as scarecrows, tin men, than was common.

• The humor, including a love of puns not usually approved of, could engage children. I love the light going on, sometimes many readings later, when they make the connection between Dorothy Gale and her being carried off by a tornado.

• While the writing is pretty commonly regarded as pedestrian, the texture of the narrative and the sheer spectacle of Baum's inventiveness means that there is always some plot development, incidental character or protagonist to grip the imagination of a young child and there is almost always a character with whom they can identify or be fascinated.

• The sheer inventiveness and uniqueness of his stories mirrored a spirit characteristic of America in general but especially of that era of invention.

The success of the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz truly launched Baum's literary career. In his remaining nineteen years, he wrote a further thirteen installments in the series. It is generally agreed that the quality of the later books was highly variable with only two, three or four coming close to the quality of the first book. Most Oz fans, however, will take the position that all are worthwhile reading. That said, they then each list a different set of 2-4 books as the next best ones.

I never had the Oz books growing up but Sally had a complete set and lapped them up at an early age. For her, the next favorite was Ozma of Oz.

Rather as Arthur Conan Doyle came to view his wildly successful creation, Sherlock Holmes, as a constraining literary burden and kept trying to kill him off, likewise Baum on a number of occasions tried to bring the Oz series to a close only to relent upon receipt of desperate pleas from fans (or succumb to financial pressures in his own life) and write another one.

While continuing to write the Oz books, Baum also authored a number of other series including the Twinkle Tales under the pseudonym of Laura Bancroft, the Aunt Jane's Nieces series under the pseudonym of Edith Van Dyne, the Boy Fortune Hunters series under the pseudonym Floyd Akers, and the Snuggle Tales series. He also wrote a number of plays/musicals based on the Oz series and later started a movie company (which quickly folded) to develop the film aspect of his writings. Over his lifetime, Baum ended up writing close to one hundred and fifty stories, plays, collections of songs, etc.

Baum and his family moved to Hollywood, California in 1910 and established a beautiful home there with lovely gardens where he indulged his love of gardening, raising prize-winning dahlias and chrysanthemums. The last four years of his life were colored by increasingly frail health. The gardens and sunshine provided some respite while he continued (under financial pressures) to write despite increasing physical incapacities. L. Frank Baum passed away May 6, 1919.

What might have happened if the Oz stories were not immortalized in film in the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie, starring Judy Garland is an interesting question. Would their continued popularity have survived without the visual magic of the film? It is worth noting that there is something so engaging about the stories that they do keep fascinating later generations of artists who, in turn, keep creating new renditions in films, plays and musicals. Likewise, the stories have been irresistible to later generations of artists and illustrators with a plethora of wonderful editions created by such magnificent illustrators as John R. Neill, Michael Hague, Lisbeth Zwerger, Charles Santore, Robert Sabuda, Greg Hildebrandt, and Evelyn Copelman. There is no doubt that the movie has sustained an audience for the stories, but I believe that the fascination with the stories by other creative spirits is not an accident and is a tribute to Baum's originality and creativity.

Independent Reader

The Oz books in sequence:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow & William Stout Highly Recommended

The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Highly Recommended

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

Tik-Tok of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

The Scarecrow of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

Rinkitink in Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

The Lost Princess of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

The Tin Woodman of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

The Magic of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

Glinda of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

Other Books Available by L. Frank Baum

Little Wizard Stories of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill Suggested

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Michael Hague Suggested

The Twinkle Tales by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Maginel Wright Barney Suggested


Baum's Complete Stamp Dealers Directory by L. Frank Baum 1873
The Maid of Arran by L. Frank Baum 1882
Matches by L. Frank Baum 1882
The Mackrummins by L. Frank Baum 1882
Louis F. Baum's Popular Songs as Sung With Immense Success in His Great 5 Act Irish Drama, Maid of Arran by L. Frank Baum 1882
The Queen of Killarney by L. Frank Baum 1885
The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise Upon the Mating, Rearing and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs by L. Frank Baum 1886
Kilmourne; or, O'Connor's Dream by L. Frank Baum 1888
Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Maxfield Parrish 1897
By the Candelabra's Glare: Some Verse by L. Frank Baum 1898
Father Goose, His Book by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow 1899
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by William Wallace Denslow 1900
A New Wonderland, Being the First Account Ever Printed of the Beautiful Valley, and the Wonderful Adventures of Its Inhabitants by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Frank Ver Beck 1900
The Army Alphabet by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Harry Kennedy 1900
The Navy Alphabet by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Harry Kennedy 1900
The Songs of Father Goose for the Home, School, and Nursery by L. Frank Baum 1900
The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors, Show Window Publishing. by L. Frank Baum 1900
American Fairy Tales by L. Frank Baum 1901
Dot and Tot of Merryland by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by William Wallace Denslow 1901
The Master Key: An Electrical Fairy Tale Founded Upon the Mysteries of Electricity and the Optimism of Its Devotees by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Fanny Y. Cory 1901
King Midas by L. Frank Baum 1901
The Octopus; or, The Title Trust by L. Frank Baum 1901
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Mary Cowles Clark 1902
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum 1902
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum 1902
The Enchanted Island of Yew, Whereon Prince Marvel Encountered the High Ki of Twi and Other Surprising People by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Fanny Y. Cory 1903
The Maid of Athens by L. Frank Baum 1903
Prince Silverwings by L. Frank Baum 1903
King Jonah XIII by L. Frank Baum 1903
The Whatnexters by L. Frank Baum 1903
Down among the Marshes: The Alligator Song by L. Frank Baum 1903
The Marvelous Land of Oz, Being an Account of the Further Adventures of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1904
Father Goose, music by Tietjens by L. Frank Baum 1904
The Pagan Potentate, music by Tietjens by L. Frank Baum 1904
What Did the Woggle-Bug Say? by L. Frank Baum 1904
The Woggle-Bug Book by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Ike Morgan 1905
Queen Zixi of Ix; or, The Story of the Magic Cloak by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Frederick Richardson 1905
The Woggle-Bug by L. Frank Baum 1905
The Woggle-Bug by L. Frank Baum 1905
The Fate of a Crown by L. Frank Baum 1905
Annabelle: A Novel for Young Folks by L. Frank Baum 1906
John Dough and the Cherub by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1906
Sam Steele's Adventures on Land and Sea by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Howard Heath 1906
Bandit Jim Crow by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright 1906
Mr. Woodchuck by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright 1906
Prairie-Dog Town by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright 1906
Prince Mud-Turtle by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright 1906
Sugar-Loaf Mountain by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright 1906
Twinkle's Enchantment by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright 1906
Aunt Jane's Nieces by L. Frank Baum 1906
Daughters of Destiny by L. Frank Baum 1906
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1907
Sam Steele's Adventures in Panama by L. Frank Baum 1907
Policeman Bluejay by L. Frank Baum 1907
Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad by L. Frank Baum 1907
Down Missouri Way by L. Frank Baum 1907
Our Mary by L. Frank Baum 1907
Maud Gage Baum, In Other Lands Than Ours by L. Frank Baum 1907
Tamawaca Folks: A Summer Comedy by L. Frank Baum 1907
Father Goose's Year Book: Quaint Quacks and Feathered Shafts for Mature Children by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Walter J. Enright 1907
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1908
The Boy Fortune Hunters in Alaska by L. Frank Baum 1908
The Boy Fortune Hunters in Egypt by L. Frank Baum 1908
The Boy Fortune Hunters in Panama by L. Frank Baum 1908
Aunt Jane's Nieces at Millville by L. Frank Baum 1908
The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays by L. Frank Baum 1908
The Last Egyptian: A Romance of the Nile by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Francis P. Wightman 1908
The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1909
The Boy Fortune Hunters in China by L. Frank Baum 1909
Aunt Jane's Nieces at Work by L. Frank Baum 1909
The Fairy Prince by L. Frank Baum 1909
The Koran of the Prophet by L. Frank Baum 1909
The Rainbow's Daughter; or, The Magnet of Love by L. Frank Baum 1909
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum 1909
Peter and Paul by L. Frank Baum 1909
The Pipes O' Pan by L. Frank Baum 1909
The Girl From Oz by L. Frank Baum 1909
The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1910
L. Frank Baum's Juvenile Speaker: Readings and Recitations in Prose and Verse, Humorous and Otherwise by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Neill and Maginel Wright Enright 1910
The Boy Fortune Hunters in Yucatan by L. Frank Baum 1910
Aunt Jane's Nieces in Society by L. Frank Baum 1910
The Pea-Green Poodle by L. Frank Baum 1910
The Clock Shop by L. Frank Baum 1910
The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1911
The Daring Twins: A Story for Young Folk by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Pauline M. Batchelder 1911
The Boy Fortune Hunters in the South Seas by L. Frank Baum 1911
Twinkle and Chubbins: Their Astonishing Adventures in Nature Fairyland by L. Frank Baum 1911
Aunt Jane's Nieces and Uncle John by L. Frank Baum 1911
The Flying Girl by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by J. P. Nuyttens 1911
Sky Island: Being the Further Exciting Adventures of Trot and Cap'n Bill After Their Visit to the Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1912
Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation by L. Frank Baum 1912
The Flying Girl and Her Chum by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by J. P. Nuyttens 1912
The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1913
Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1913
Little Dorothy and Toto by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1913
Ozma and the Little Wizard by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1913
The Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1913
The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1913
Tik-Tok and the Nome King by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1913
Phoebe Daring: A Story for Young Folk by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Pauline M. Batchelder 1913
Aunt Jane's Nieces on the Ranch by L. Frank Baum 1913
The Tik-Tok Man of Oz by L. Frank Baum 1913
The Tik-Tok Man of Oz by L. Frank Baum 1913
Tik-Tok of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1914
The Little Wizard Stories of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1914
Aunt Jane's Nieces out West by L. Frank Baum 1914
Stagecraft, The Adventures of a Strictly Moral Man by L. Frank Baum 1914
The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum 1914
The Magic Cloak of Oz by L. Frank Baum 1914
The Last Egyptian by L. Frank Baum 1914
Violet's Dreams by L. Frank Baum 1914
The Scarecrow of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1915
Aunt Jane's Nieces in the Red Cross by L. Frank Baum 1915
His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz by L. Frank Baum 1915
The Uplift of Lucifer; or, Raising Hell by L. Frank Baum 1915
Rinkitink in Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1916
Little Bun Rabbit, Reilly & Lee. by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill and Maginel Wright Enright 1916
Once Upon a Time, Reilly & Lee. by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill and Maginel Wright Enright 1916
The Yellow Hen, Reilly & Lee. by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill and Maginel Wright Enright 1916
The Magic Cloak, Reilly & Lee. by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill and Maginel Wright Enright 1916
Mary Louise by L. Frank Baum 1916
Mary Louise in the Country by L. Frank Baum 1916
The Uplifters' Minstrels by L. Frank Baum 1916
The Lost Princess of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1917
The Ginger-Bread Man, Reilly & Lee. by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill and Maginel Wright Enright 1917
Jack Pumpkinhead, Reilly & Lee. by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill and Maginel Wright Enright 1917
Mary Louise Solves a Mystery by L. Frank Baum 1917
The Orpheus Road Company by L. Frank Baum 1917
The Tin Woodman of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1918
Mary Louise and the Liberty Girls by L. Frank Baum 1918
The Magic of Oz by L. Frank Baum 1919
Glinda of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill 1920
Oz-Man Tales by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill and Maginel Wright Enright 1920
Susan Doozan by L. Frank Baum 1920
Our Landlady by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Friends of the Middle Border. 1941
Jaglon and the Tiger Fairies by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Dale Ulrey 1953
The Musical Fantasies of L. Frank Baum by L. Frank Baum 1958
The High-Jinks of L. Frank Baum (for The Uplifters) by L. Frank Baum 1959
The Visitors From Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Dick Martin 1960
The Uplift of Lucifer by L. Frank Baum 1963
Animal Fairy Tales by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Dick Martin 1969
A Kidnapped Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Richard Rosenblum 1969

Friday, February 15, 2008

Society and the Individual

In every place and every time throughout history, the long term success of society has depended upon the family (variously defined); that intense crucible where new citizens are born, formed, raised and forged. As much attention as has been paid over the years, at least since Caesar Augustus, to the importance of the family and of family values, there actually is relatively little information about how the socialization process occurs or how it can be best achieved. It is the last frontier of the gifted amateur in which we are all qualified.

What are the many steps in the course of eighteen years that carry you from a start with a proto-Neanderthal bundle of inarticulate emotion to a sentient, reasonable, polite individual focused on improving his lot and that of his friends, neighbors and countrymen, and able to express respect for all the unknown strangers that come into his life? No-one has that well mapped out but there is a lot of speculation and free advice along the way. Given what you start with and the challenges from a not-always-sympathetic and, indeed, sometimes hostile external environment, I think the effectiveness of parents raising their children is one of the hugely un-acknowledged miracles of our times.

It seems almost irreverent to think of the family as a socialization process; it is way too personal and fun for that, and yet, for better or worse, that is the outcome. We know when it doesn't work, and often have a pretty good idea as to why it doesn't work. It is a little harder to know when the process has worked or to say what makes it work better.

I once read somewhere that everyone in the US has the power to never be in poverty. All that you have to do is 1) graduate high school, 2) marry, and 3) get and keep a job, any job. There are virtually no high school graduates that are married and employed that are in poverty. Sounds like a straightforward formula. How hard can that be?

Well, pretty hard it would appear.

Clay Shirky made an observation a number of years ago which I think encapsulates the dilemma reasonably well. He said that "Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality." Accepting this clarifies then the mission of the family in raising a child - helping them to understand and make choices.

The beauty of it is that this process is mostly unconscious and often terrifically fun. The benefits are not one way either, from parent to child. With the freshness of their eyes and the blank slate of their minds ("before the dark of reason grows" Betjeman) it is usually quite frequent that as you are explaining something to them, they are asking the questions that you never got around to asking yourself as a child. Children force you also to look at the world with new eyes.

First you teach them to communicate. Then you begin to fill them with knowledge and facts. Then you begin to work with them to understand how to interpret those facts. Then to predict based on that interpretation. Then, finally, to begin to understand the fallibility of facts, reason and, most especially, of prediction. Because the world is not a mechanical place where A always leads to B, we fill in the gaps with our faith, our morals, and our sense of civic responsibility, our ethics. And this is where it gets wonderfully and intriguingly complicated.

It is fun playing around with facts and getting kids to understand them. We once asked our three kids (at that time probably three, five and seven) to explain why it was that, if one in five people on earth is Chinese, none of the five of us was Chinese. It is a real pleasure to see them working through the exact meaning of words and the light beginning to go on.

As they slip more and more out of our sheltering and direct influence, (beginning school, playing with neighbourhood kids, off to camp, etc.), they are of course exposed to an ever greater diversity of values and opinions. I reckon that you have six to ten years to establish the foundation of values and beliefs that will shape their interpretation of the external world and how they choose to interact with it. What are their obligations to family, friends, countrymen, fellow man? What should, or more importantly can, they expect from their fellow man? What are their rights, their obligations?

The check lists are easy - the Ten Commandments, the Boy Scout oath, the Golden Rule, the rules of sports, etc. That is just a matter of exposure and memorization. The challenge is in the interpretation and application. It is the ability to make appropriate choices in every-day life that represents real growing up.

In the midst of all this learning from parent, from experience and from stories, it has struck me over the years just how fruitful our language is with what, fundamentally, are little bits of ethical code masquerading as idioms and adages. Some of these adages are just useful rules of thumb; some are important ethical decisions. I don't know whether you experience it in your household, but we certainly do in ours: a number of adages that get repeated ad nauseum.

• First things first (homework before games, dinner before desert, etc.)

• Focus

• Look before you leap (watch out, plan ahead)

• The early bird gets the worm (hurry up)

• Cleanliness is next to godliness (clean your room)

• Andre volk, andre art (a Swedish phrase from my childhood, "other people, other ways" to explain why someone else has made a decision that seems both self-defeating as well as contrary to the rules we live by)

• Share and share alike

• Slow and steady wins the race

• Do unto others . . .

• Etc.

I once gave Sally a delightful little book by Carol Bolt, Mom's Book of Answers (which is out of print but you can find something similar with The Book of Answers. There are probably three or four hundred pages, each with a single phrase which you will instantly recognize - it is as if every mom on earth is programmed to say these words. Some are adages, many are just familiar phrases. Sally keeps the book in the kitchen and often, when a child comes in with a request or question, she pulls it down and randomly opens it and to read the answer:

Q: Mom, can I have some chips?
Random Mom's Book of Answers: Is there anything you've forgotten?

Q: I can't find my shoes.
Random Mom's Book of Answers: Don't complain; in the old days, we walked five miles in the snow just to get the mail, and that was before breakfast.

Q: Has anyone seen my homework?
Random Mom's Book of Answers: It may come back to haunt you.

It's kind of surprising just how often these phrases/adages work interchangeably. They are always the answer regardless of the question. They take on an almost cryptic haiku-like quality.

I think there might be an interesting study in there somewhere, documenting the frequency of adages used as well as comparing the nature of adages between cultures. In a pre-literate society adages are an efficient way to pass on critical information and wisdom from generation to generation and I wonder if adage-rich families/cultures aren't characterised by better adjusted and more successful children?

As if moving up the building blocks, from basic language to adages, you then have folk stories, myths and legends all of which are usually vessels for communicating information and rules of behaviour, but more often are built around the application and outcomes of such knowledge and wisdom. I mentioned in this essay about James Baldwin, the incredible richness of our heritage of folktales, not only from all over Europe but all over the world. Robert Bruce and the Spider, King Alfred and the Cakes, King Canute and the Tide, Aesop's Fables, the 1001 Arabian Nights, Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby - it is a rich well from which we can draw.

The books we have compiled here are a mixture of tales that you can use to plant ideas in the mind of your child or to serve as the catalyst to discuss a topic to help them explore how to behave, as well as stories that serve as models of how to behave and how to consider making decisions in a social context. Most of these stories allow the child to make the connection for herself about the values being demonstrated and the ways of interacting with one another and the benefit that accrues from those values.

There is also an incredibly dense population of books that deal with the individual in conflict with society and how those conflicts can be resolved. We have included just a smattering of those. The first step is to understand value and obligations with regard to society. Once those basic rules are understood, it then becomes a little easier to navigate the more difficult exceptions and the issues of societal right and wrong which we will address in a future Pigeon Post and book list.

Picture Books

Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. W. Awdry Highly Recommended

Goops and How to Be Them by Gelett Burgess Suggested

Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton Recommended

The Yellow Star by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Henri Sorensen Highly Recommended

The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln and illustrated by Michael McCurdy Recommended

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and illustrated by Christopher Bing Recommended

What Do You Do, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin and illustrated by Maurice Sendak Highly Recommended

What Do You Say, Dear by Sesyle Joslin and illustrated by Maurice Sendak Highly Recommended

Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss Recommended

Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss Recommended

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss Highly Recommended

Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss Recommended

Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss Recommended

Independent Readers

Fifty Famous People by James Baldwin (Not available from Through the Maigc Door. Click the link to go to Yesterday's Classics)

Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin (Not available from Through the Maigc Door. Click the link to go to Yesterday's Classics)

Thirty More Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin (Not available from Through the Maigc Door. Click the link to go to Yesterday's Classics)

The Children's Book of Heroes by William J. Bennett and illustrated by Michael Hague Recommended

The Children's Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett and illustrated by Michael Hague Recommended

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and illustrated by P.J. Lynch Highly Recommended

The Christmas Candle by Richard Paul Evans and illustrated by Jacob Collins Recommended

Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey Highly Recommended

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen Recommended

Beowulf the Warrior by Ian Serraillier and illustrated by Severin & Ian Serraillier Recommended

Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff and illustrated by Alan Lee Recommended

Stop The Train! by Geraldine McCaughrean Suggested

Railway Children by Edith Nesbit and illustrated by C. E. Brock Highly Recommended

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Recommended

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois Highly Recommended

Holes by Louis Sachar Recommended

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder and illustrated by Garth Williams Highly Recommended

Young Adult

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens Highly Recommended

Lord of the Flies by William Golding and illustrated by Ben Gibson Recommended

The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Isaac Kramnick & James Madison Recommended

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo Recommended

Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley Recommended

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Highly Recommended

1984 by George Orwell Recommended

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand Recommended

Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose Recommended