Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 56. Books for and about Children

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 56. Books for and about Children

Children’s literature, as fits a “children’s century,” has become most varied and attractive. No longer is it the formal piety of the adult reduced to the priggishness of the child; nor, on the other hand, the extravagant tale for surreptitious enjoyment. Child life depicted for the enjoyment of the adult; adult life brought within the interest and comprehension of the child through the new knowledge of psychology; animal life personified; science humanized, so that the child can live in an environment of reality, tenanted by the creatures of his imagination—into such classes do the books for children now chiefly fall. Most of these assist in the real education of the child in accordance with principles which were anathema to our fathers. Some of them, as George Madden Martin’s Emmy Lou, belong to the school. Myra Kelly’s stories of the East Side New York schoolchild, Little Citizens and Aliens, have introduced to literature a new type, the children of the immigrant, with their humour, pathos, promise. In Lucy Pratt’s Ezekiel the negro schoolchild of the South finds utterance. On the borderland of the literature of the school are the stories Seventeen and Penrod, by Booth Tarkington, revealing the experience of the adolescent schoolboy and girl on its obverse and reverse side—its tragic seriousness to them, its humour and irritation to the adult. Literature for children has now become so voluminuous in quantity, so varied in character, so rich in content, that it can no longer be considered merely as a class of educational literature. However, it performs more efficiently than ever before a genuine educational function through the happy union of humanitarian sentiment, scientific psychological knowledge, and attractive literary form.