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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Curry/Clippinger (Horace E. Scudder) - Boyhood of Washington - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

What is the current text for Children's Literature classes?  Mine was by May Hill Arbuthnot.  For years she was the introduction to the subject and she was already long dead by the time I took "Kiddie Lit" as it's so often called.  My instructor was a children's librarian with a good respect for Arbuthnot.  Her books went through many editions.  I believe I lost that textbook, Children and Books, over the years, but I've saved three anthologies by her that are more valuable to me: Time for Fairy Tales Old and New, Time for New Magic, Time for Old Magic.

Prior to Ms. Arbuthnot, who was later joined by and succeeded by co-author Zena Sutherland, the earlier introduction to children's literature for parents and teachers was from Erle Elsworth Clippinger and Charles Madison Curry starting in 1920.  By that time even rural schoolteachers for one-room schools were receiving more training, including this excellent exposure to the best literature for their young students.  On the title page, the subtitle gives a view into the editors rationale:

The Used Book copy I have said "A Great Resource!" next to the bookseller's price and I definitely agree.   Just the bibliographies throughout the book would be "A Great Resource!", but like the television commercials of today: Wait there's more!!!  The first section, the Preface and General Introduction, might be something you skip.  Don't.  It includes something storytellers and others often wonder about, the grade level most likely to be interested in what material.  Curry/Clippinger provide interest levels from first through eighth grades. 

Think it's only true for children, especially middle school students, in the early 20th century?  There's a reminder of the continued importance of teachers reading to their students to develop an appreciation of the best in literature even though their students can read and "the teacher's work is mainly one of guidance and direction in getting the children and the right books in contact.  Children at this period are likely to be omnivorous readers, ready for any book that comes their way, and the job of keeping them supplied with titles of enough available good books for their needs is indeed one to tax all a teacher's knowledge and experience."

If that's not enough to match present day 7th and 8th graders, they continue, "The demand for highly sensational stories on the part of pupils in the upper grades is so insistent that it constitutes a special problem for the teacher."  The popularity of the dystopian Hunger Games and Twilight Saga fantasies seem to prove it's still true even if they were talking about 'dime novels' of their day.

Beyond that first section are eleven other sections: Mother Goose Jingles and Nursery Rhymes (31 pages); Fairy Stories--Traditional Tales (113 pages); Fairy Stories--Modern Fantastic Tales (75 pages); Fables and Symbolic Stories (37 pages); Myths (58 pages); Poetry (69 pages); Realistic Stories (63 pages); Nature Literature (56 pages); Romance Cycles and Legend (52 pages); Biography and Hero Stories (39 pages); Home Reading List and General Index (14 pages). 

Each section opens with a page of bibliography for that section.  I included the number of pages as that shows the amount of attention given a topic.  A few additional brief comments seem needed.  "Fairy Stories--Modern Fantastic Tales", in 1920 meant Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde's "The Happy Prince", Frank Stockton, and James Ruskin's "King of the Golden River" among others we would now consider "Traditional" or at least far from "Modern."   Myths are Greek, Roman, and Norse.  I fondly remember as a children's librarian hearing middle school students discussing them with as much interest as if they were soap operas!  Clearly their teacher made them as relevant as they deserve to be.  Realistic Stories are probably the most dated section with Goody Two-Shoes turning me off, but O.Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" still relevant. The Legends touch the Arabian Nights, French Reynard the Fox, Arthurian tales, Don Quixote, Robin Hood, and another tale by today's author, Horace Scudder, I don't recognize.

Those biographies are the source of today's tale in this month when we celebrate President's Day.  It also includes something that is a more believable look at young George Washington's honesty than the proverbial chopping down of the cherry tree.


My scanner lets me crop in a limited way, but you can see the next biography comes from Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography.  To have your own copy of this "Great Resource!" go to that wonderful way of Keeping the Public in Public Domain, Project Gutenberg.

The final 12th section, "Home Reading List and General Index", again is graded and also would be excellent for home school families.  As a former indexer, I can also rate the index positively.  I find it's often hard to move from an index to the exact page for eBooks and online reading, so I value my actual book.

However you view the Curry/Clippinger anthology, enjoy both President's Day and Keeping the Public in Public Domain. 
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.   

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