We’ve all got it… a potent and affectionate memory we have of something from when we were quite young (instead of only “young” as I am now . Much nostalgia is for books we read as children; quality does not matter, only the fact that we read them at the beginning of our Word Adventures. This is why books like Judy Bolton mysteries or Trixie Belden are popular. Their literary quality is almost nil but people remember reading them as children so they are enhanced with a haze of glory.
The lesson we can learn from that, although I didn’t mean to write such a moralizing post, is that we must surround young folk with an environment of high quality. It needn’t be expensive high quality, just worth while. Instead of Disney read-alouds, get beautifully illustrated fairy tales. Instead of inane teddy bear pictures on the nursery wall, hang bright works of art… wasn’t it Frank Lloyd Wright’s mother who put photographs of famous buildings around his crib?
What got me started on this post was suddenly seeing some scans of one of my favorite childhood books online. Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman was a book I spent many happy hours immersing myself in. Hyman’s illustrations are out of this world beautiful (they won the Caldecott medal) and the story is a retelling of parts of Spenser’s The Faery Queen. Some at Amazon complain that the retelling is too difficult for children to comprehend. Balderdash, say I. It may be a challenge. Children who are bored by this book, though, have spent entirely too much time watching TV.