Challenge · The Classics Club

Coming: Classic Children’s Literature

If you’ve looked at my 2012 reading list, you may note that I’ve read quite a few children’s books this year. And yes, you may infer from this fact that I still love children’s literature. While I’ve read quite a few of the “greatest hits” over the years—Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, the Little House books, The Chronicles of Narnia—there are still many I’ve missed. So back a few months ago when the Classics Club was looking for someone to host a January Children’s Classic Read-a-long, I jumped at the chance. Even better? Jean of Howling Frog Books will be posting a series on lesser-known children’s authors during the month of January as well.

Classic Children's Literature Challenge January 2013

I decided that rather than simply host a read-a-long, which can be limiting, I’d do something more along the line of Carl’s wonderful R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event, with one part RAL and one part read any children’s classic(s) you wish. The event will take place in January, and despite the “challenge” in the title, is meant to be a fun opportunity to explore classic books from childhoods past that we may have forgotten or overlooked.

The Details

  • During the month of January, we will read as many Children’s Classics as we wish and post about them on our blogs. I will have a link page starting the first of the month to gather posts so that we may share as we go.
  • The optional RAL title will be The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. I plan on discussion the weekend of January 25-27.
  • For those who prefer to read digitally, The Princess and the Goblin is available free in multiple formats HERE or in a HTML format HERE.
  • I think many of us have read more recent children’s books that we may already deem “classics” (for example, many people feel that way about the Harry Potter books), but for this event, I’d prefer if we read books that were written prior to 1960. This will still allow a lot of options, and will hopefully avoid the “but what is a classic” dilemma!
  • Defining “children’s,” especially prior to 1900 or so can be a challenge as some books we think of as “children’s” today may not have been intended that way at the time. Personally, I’d say books appropriate for approximately an elementary-school aged child or preteen (to read or to have read to them) should be fine. I’d also count the various fairy tales, even though some of the earliest versions were not exactly always family friendly.
  • Books from any country, in translation or not, count. I have limited exposure to non-American children’s lit, so I’d love to learn about books from other countries myself.
  • Jean and I will be sharing a suggestions list of some pre-1960 titles closer to the start of the event, but feel free to read anything within the guidelines.

I know my blog doesn’t have that large of a following and there are already some wonderful events being planned for January, so I do feel a little shy about posting this, but I’m hoping that a few of you will join me as I dedicate a month to children’s books. Please let me know in the comments of this post if you are interested in participating, and let me know if you have any questions. Over the weekend when I was working on logos, I got a little Photoshop-happy, so please feel free to use any of the following on your own blogs. I’m just posting the small 200-pixel wide versions, but if you’d rather use a 400-wide version, let me know.

The Princess and the Goblin RAL January 2013
Classic Children's Literature Reading Challenge January 2013
Classic Children's Literature Reading Challenge January 2013
Classic Children's Literature Reading Challenge January 2013
Classic Children's Literature Reading Challenge January 2013

P.S. If you’re like me, you never get as much done in a month as you intend, so feel free to start reading now and post in January. As a warm-up, I believe a number of bloggers, led by Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza and Amateur Reader(Tom) of Wuthering Expectations will be reading Little Women and Good Wives (combined as Little Women in the US), for discussion the first week of January or so. This would be an excellent start to the month if you wish to read along, and I don’t think they’d mind.

Image sources: The primary logo is adapted from an illustration by Scottish illustrator Anne Anderson, and was found on Wikimedia Commons. The ship logo is adapted from ‘Snake and Hawk’ headpiece illustration by N.C. Wyeth, as digitized by plumleaves and found on Flickr under a Creative Commons license. The image for the RAL logo is from a cover illustration for The Princess and the Goblin from a 1920 edition illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. A web version of this illustrated edition is available HERE.

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53 thoughts on “Coming: Classic Children’s Literature

  1. Really wonderful idea. The Princess and the Goblin is pretty great. I spent a week on MacDonald a couple of years ago, but did not write much about his Princess books.

    Besides the Alcott I will get to The Jungle Book in January, or so I hope.

    If I were not reading those I would pick Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno – I have no idea what his non-Alice books are like and should find out – or Carlos Collodi’s Adventures of Pinocchio. Several good translations are now available.

    1. Thank you, Tom. I may possibly have read The Princess and the Goblin ages ago, but I don’t remember a thing if I did, so I’m glad to hear it’s a good one. I’ll have to check out your MacDonald posts.

      I had no idea that Carroll wrote anything other than the Alice books and some poems, but I seem to be constantly finding out that authors are more prolific than I was aware. Looking it up, it does sound intriguing… As for Pinocchio, that one is on my list—only I’m going to be foolhardy and try the Italian, as I have a copy I bought when I was in Italy. It may be the only thing I get read next month!

    2. I read Collodi’s Pinocchio to my class last year, from the Penguin’s classics, and they loved it. I can’t stress enough what a wonderful read this is!

  2. Oh me! Oh me! I’m in! Count me in!!

    This sounds like such a delightful project. I already have SO MANY children’s classics on my list. Perhaps I should move them all to January, eh? I like that you are allowing us to read ahead of January just so that we might share our love of children’s literature….thank you.:)

    Personally, I’m not sure how much reading I will get done, but I have the whole of Narnia on my list. Then there is Black Beauty, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. I have all of those on my list for next year.

    Also, I would love to join in on the RAL. I have The George MacDonald Golden Treasury that I have yet to open! I am so looking forward to this event.

    I will be posting about it tomorrow (my time). 🙂

    1. Yay, someone joining me on The Princess and the Goblin! I know how it goes, with schedules getting busy. Usually I sign up for a readalong or some sort of event and don’t get finished until two weeks after it’s over, so I thought a head start would be nice. Just save the posts for January! I’ve read the Narnia books and the Burnett, but not the others. One of these days. So many great books, even limiting ourselves to one little segment of literature.

  3. Oh yes! I’m in. I might not get a lot read since my blog focuses on current YA lit, but my youngest children are eight and eleven. We have tons of great classics we’ve yet to get to. This is just the incentive I need.

    1. Welcome, Laura Catherine! Involving your kids sounds great. I read a lot of books that are still my favorites at that age–the Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women, and books by Elizabeth George Speare and C.S. Lewis. I hope you and your kids will find some favorites of your own during the event.

  4. LOVE the banners, wow!!! I’m going to have to look at the dates of some of the vintage sf that I am planning to read for January to see if I can do double duty with joining in on this one. I have some Heinlein and Norton juvenile fiction (which is aimed at the 12 year old market of the time) that may just meet the “classic” date parameters.

    Don’t be shy about hosting stuff. The internet is always cluttered with multiple things going on at once so if you wait for a lull that will never happen. If you are wanting to do something like this the best thing to do is dive right in.

    1. Thanks, Carl! My brother’s a former graphic designer so he’s taught me a bunch about layout and design. I hope some of your fiction is old enough to meet double-duty–I’d love to learn more about vintage SF. (For that matter, I just need to get around to reading some SF–I think I’d like it.)

      1. If you like YA fiction, the book I just reviewed, Apollo’s Outcasts, is an excellent one to not only get a bit of a sci fi flavor but also just to read a really nice story.

  5. I love the idea! I’d like to know more about children’s literature in other countries! If I have time, I’ll consider compiling a post about Russian children’s literature, which is not only great, but also, I think, largely unknown abroad

    1. Thank you! I’d love to learn about the children’s literature of other countries as well. I’m mostly familiar with the US and some British and Canadian (L.M. Montgomery), but outside of the fairy tales from the Grimms, Anderson, and Perault, I know nothing of other countries children’s lit. I’d love to hear about the Russian stories if you have the opportunity.

    1. Arenel, if you do write such a post, please send a link my way! I would love to have some information on Russian authors for children. I only know Pushkin’s fairy tales.

      1. They are the most famous, yes. But there are much more. And strangely everyone thinks that there was no significant literature in Soviet Union, but the truth is that a lot of attention was paid to children’s upbringing and children’s literature was very-very good. And it’s still before 1960, so it definitely counts =) I’ll try to write about some which are translated, and I’ll send you a link =)

        1. That would be wonderful! I do know a bit about how much care was put into children, but I know nothing about the literature. (I’ve watched the show about Alisa from the future, have you seen that? 🙂 )

          1. Alice is great! I’ve read everything about her when I was a child =) But it’s already post-1960. My favourite Soviet pre-1960 is The Wizard of the Emerald City and the other books from the series.

            1. The thing is, I felt so inspired, that I began to make a list right now, and oh how I love all those books! And I have a thought that maybe I can make a kind of sub-event out of this? Something like posting my list of suggestions, so that people can get to know something new and also posting about my most favourite books during the month?

    2. Thanks, Jean! I’m getting more excited every day, and my personal list of books to read for it is becoming ridiculously long. Can’t wait to start.

  6. I’m up for reading classic children’s literature with you! I love classics for all age levels, and while I’m focusing on Japanese literature for January, I’m sure I can fit in children’s classics as well. Great idea!!

    1. Lovely to have you join, Bellezza. The nice thing about children’s books is they (usually) don’t take too long to read, so it’s easy to sneak one. I know very little about Japanese literature–are there any children’s classics from before 1960 that could double for both?

  7. Arenel and Jean, you’re already intriguing me with all this talk of stories I’ve never heard of. So much to look up! Arenel, if you post a list, please let me know so that I can link to it (and add books to my personal list). Like Jean, I think it’s great if you add your knowledge to the event.

  8. I have a year-long children’s literature reading challenge in my blog (for Indonesia only). I think I could combine it with this.

    1. Please feel free to combine this challenge with any others you wish (as far as I’m concerned). I’d be happy for you to join us in any way possible!

  9. If it’s not too late, I’d love to participate in your challenge. There are so many books from my childhood days I’d like to read again. It’s a great idea for a new year’s start!

    1. No, it’s not too late at all! The challenge won’t officially start until January, so there’s still plenty of time to join in. I’m happy to have you participate.

    1. Only if you wish to. I might post a tentative plans list for myself at the start of the month, but posting a list or plans is completely optional. The only real requirement is to have fun!

    1. Welcome aboard! I’m glad to hear so many people say good things about The Princess and the Goblin, as I know almost nothing about it.

      1. It’s such a marvelous book! The hero, Curdie, is a miner’s son who chases goblins away because he can sing in rhyme and that’s something they can’t stand. I think the verses he chooses helps too, and the fact that he can make up rhymes. As I child, I just found him fascinating!

    1. No, it’s not too late at all! Just read and post by the end of the month and you’re set. I’d not heard of Hart or The Runaway, so I look forward to your thoughts.

      1. Thank you! It’s a Persephone, and I hadn’t heard of it before I learned of Persephone books either. Would that be considered a classic? I can read The Story of the Treasure Seekers or The Railway Children both by E. Nesbit, too, since we also have those on the TBR. 🙂

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