Saturday, June 24, 2017

Historical Children's Literature (And Why I'll Never Run Out of Reading Material)

Via a writer's group I belong to, I learned about the Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature, a digital collection maintained by the University of Florida. A past post from Open Culture provides some details:
Their digitized collection currently holds over 6,000 books free to read online from cover to cover, allowing you to get a sense of what adults in Britain and the U.S. wanted children to know and believe. Several genres flourished at the time: religious instruction, naturally, but also language and spelling books, fairy tales, codes of conduct, and, especially, adventure stories—pre-Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew examples of what we would call young adult fiction, these published principally for boys. Adventure stories offered a (very colonialist) view of the wide world; in series like the Boston-published Zig Zag and English books like Afloat with Nelson, both from the 1890s, fact mingled with fiction, natural history and science with battle and travel accounts.
The post highly recommends checking out the Book of Elfin Rhymes, one of many works of fantasy from the turn of the century - similar to a childhood favorite of mine, the Oz book series by L. Frank Baum, a world I continue to visit in my adult life through antique book collecting and occasional rereading. The illustrations of Elfin Rhymes are similar to the detailed illustrations you would find in a first edition (or reprinted vintage edition) of an Oz book:

And if you're looking for more classics (and beyond) to read for free, Open Culture shares a list of 800 free ebooks here. This is a good find considering I'm spending my afternoon cleaning out my bookshelf, putting books I've read (and am unlikely to reread soon) into storage to make room for new. My reading list continues to grow...

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