THERE is no doubt that a lot of literary rubbish is current under the name of children's books; there always was; but it has become rather more apparent in recent times. Mr. McColvin, in a useful article in The Library Review, presents a nostalgic sigh for the days of Henty and Fenn and even of the earlier Ballantyne and upon that builds a somewhat severe criticism of the modern children's library. As so often with writers on this theme, he uses no half‐tones and points a rather dismal scene in primary black and white, and his moral is that it would be better to be without these libraries than that they should supply ill‐written, badly devised and quite useless slush which makes no demands upon the child. If this were a complete picture we should agree. It is not; in the first place, it is based mainly on fiction, a very incomplete view of children's books. But, even considering fiction only, while such writers as Noel Streatfeild, Elizabeth Goudge, Arthur Ransome and David Severn (and a dozen others come to the pen) are supplying us with books, it cannot be wholly true. Then, as one of our correspondents implies elsewhere in these pages, children are of many ages and stages, and it is not wrong to give little ones simple things. It is vain to long for the return of the days when the Pilgrim's Progress, Foxe's Martyrs and the Dore editions of Paradise Lost and the Cary translation of Dante's Inferno adorned, and required dusting weekly, on every parlour table, and to many subsequent readers Ballantyne, except for Coral Island, is as dead as the Pharaohs. We do thank Mr. McColvin, however, for bringing children's librarians to that state of vexed irritation which will induce them to reconsider their work, increase their standards and recall the commonplace that their almost entire purpose is to produce intelligent adult readers. The T.L.S., in an appreciation of Mr. McColvin's article, suggests that the influence of the children's librarian can be even greater in this direction than the teacher's, but, if what he asserts is true, through our libraries many children may be deprived of the intellectual capacity to read anything worth while. Does Mr. McColvin really believe that?
MCB UP Ltd
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