Recently I picked up a few books from the library that I first read when I was around ten years old, give or take a year. They are by Edward Eager. Have you ever heard of him? If not, you should have. I was infatuated with his books as a child. They are very like E. Nesbit’s books, whom he takes as a model.
My conscience fully approves and sanctions this endeavor to reread books I have read in my childhood, for C. S. Lewis has sanctioned it, and on the matter of Good Books he is practically always right. “When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly.” Except I am only sixteen, not fifty. All the same, it holds, and he also says somewhere that a child’s book that you can’t enjoy as an adult is not a good child’s book. Not that I am an adult, either, but my literary tastes have certainly matured, to some extent. I would not have enjoyed George Eliot as a ten-year-old, and I would not now enjoy the Phantom Stallion books – at least, I hope not.
At any rate, the books I have been reading recently are:
Magic or Not? – Edward Eager
The Well-Wishers – Edward Eager (the sequel to the above)
The Time Garden (sequel to ‘Knight’s Castle’) – Edward Eager
Seven-Day Magic – Edward Eager
The Magic City – E. Nesbit
The Railway Children – E. Nesbit
And begun, but not yet finished – The Midnight Folk – John Masefield, and reading to my sister – The Story of the Treasure-Seekers – E. Nesbit
And checked out from the library (I overstuffed yesterday and checked out over twenty things, I think):
Half-Magic – Edward Eager
Magic by the Lake – Edward Eager
Knight’s Castle – Edward Eager (alas, he wrote only seven magical books for children)
The Enchanted Castle – E. Nesbit
Wet Magic – E. Nesbit
The Phoenix and the Carpet (sequel to ‘Five Children and It’, which I believe we own but haven’t found yet, and which is a very delightful book) – E. Nesbit
The Story of the Amulet – E. Nesbit. Note: this sequel to ‘The Phoenix and the Carpet’ involves the children calling on dark powers using an Egyptian amulet, so probably Michael O’Brien and like-minded would not like it; however, C. S. Lewis particularly loved this story, recommended it to a young reader on Page 174 of the third volume of his Letters, and praised it somewhere for giving him his first realization of the quality of ancientness – I do not remember where. I consider Lewis a knowledgeable authority on matters of literature, who has probably read more ancient and medieval literature treating with witches than O’Brien, and who undoubtedly would not knowingly indoctrinate a child into witchcraft; so I went ahead and read it, but if such things make you uncomfortable, go ahead and avoid it.
The House of Arden – E. Nesbit (which I have now begun to read and which has a rather unpleasant passage about a witch in it that would make it appropriate to probably only those who already know that witches are bad)
The other books I got from the library include poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay, since I read part of her poem ‘Renascence’ for my Great Books class last Tuesday and wanted to finish reading it – a very lovely poem (update: some of her poetry isn’t quite clean, though, exercise discretion); some books on vegetable and herb gardening, to indulge my latest hobby, planning my future garden; a cook-book; a couple of P. G. Wodehouses; ‘The Lady of the Lake’ by Sir Walter Scott; a collection of short stories about the sea; and a couple DVDs.
One of the things I’ve noticed about children’s books is how much shorter they are to read than ‘grown-up’ books. I can easily finish one in a day. It is pleasant to be able to read something quick, delightful, and easy, but it is rather sad to bite it off so quickly. I can see why reading books aloud to children is a superior way; reading aloud takes me much longer than silently, and my mouth gets dry and I want to stop before one chapter is over.