In keeping with the topic for this week, here are excerpts from a few children’s classics from my bookshelf. Again, they are presented in no particular order, and these form but a mere fraction of all the incredible works available to us.
All the books I have selected have the following things in common:
- They are all written beautifully, almost in a lyrical fashion.
- Each of them takes place in a different country (or countries) or has a diverse setting.
- Every one of them provides us with glimpses of lifestyle from various time periods in the past.
- Each of the authors was possibly influenced, in their writing (both in style and content), by the cultures and belief systems they grew up imbibing.
“Anna Maria,” said the old man rat (whose name was Samuel Whiskers), – “Anna Maria, make me a kitten dumpling roly-poly pudding for my dinner.”
“It requires dough and a pat of butter, and a rolling-pin,” said Anna Maria, considering Tom Kitten with her head on one side.
“No,” said Samuel Whiskers, “make it properly, Anna Maria, with bread-crumbs.”
“Nonsense! Butter and dough,” replied Anna Maria.
– The Roly-Poly Pudding by Beatrix Potter
As the children walked in, they saw that most of the walls had crumbled down. There were rubble heaps everywhere. In some places, parts of the walls were intact and they could see the niches in them, which must have been used for storage all those many years ago. Once or twice they came across wooden pillars rotting away. On one of them they saw something that looked as if someone had tried to carve a name on it.
The children stared in silence. It was so quiet, it was impossible to believe it was the middle of the day. There were no bird sounds, not even an insect. Two large crows, perched on one of the walls, flew away noiselessly as the children approached.
“It’s … it’s … eerie,” Dinu said, using a word he had just learnt. Polly was too subdued to ask ‘What’s that?’. It was Ravi who asked instead.
“It means, funny and frightening – like this is.”
“Frightening? Don’t tell me you’re frightened, Dinu?” Minu’s face was grave but her eyes held a mischievous twinkle.
– The Hidden Treasure by Shashi Deshpande
October was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry-trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in the aftermaths.
Anne revelled in the world of color about her.
“Oh, Marilla,” she exclaimed one Saturday morning, coming dancing in with her arms full of gorgeous boughs. “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill – several thrills? I’m going to decorate my room with them.”
– Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
“Can’t I go out and play, Ma?” Laura asked, and Ma said:
“May I go out to play?” she asked.
“You may tomorrow,” Ma promised.
That night Laura woke up, shivering. The bed-covers felt thin, and her nose was icy cold. Ma was tucking another quilt over her.
“Snuggle close to Mary,” Ma said, “and you’ll get warm.”
In the morning the house was warm from the stove, but when Laura looked out of the window she saw that the ground was covered with soft, thick snow. All along the branches of the trees the snow was piled like feathers, and it lay in mounds along the top of the rail fence, and stood up in great, white balls on top of the gate-posts.
– Little House In The Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”
In her eagerness she did not realize how queer the words would sound and that they were not the ones she had meant to say. Mr. Craven looked quite startled.
“Earth!” he repeated, “What do you mean?”
“To plant seeds in – to make things grow – to see them come alive,” Mary faltered.
He gazed at her a moment and then passed his hand quickly over his eyes.
“Do you — care about gardens so much?” he said slowly.
“I didn’t know about them in India,” said Mary. “I was always ill and tired and it was too hot. I sometimes made little beds in the sand and stuck flowers in them. But here it is different.”
– The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
“You’ll not say anything about it at home, will you?”
“Not a word.”
“And you won’t tease me in private?”
“I never tease.”
“Yes, you do; you get everything you want out of people. I don’t know how you do it, but you are a born wheedler.”
“Thank you; fire away.”
“Well, I’ve left two stories with a newspaperman, and he’s to give his answer next week,” whispered Jo, in her confidant’s ear.
“Hurrah for Miss March, the celebrated American authoress!” cried Laurie, throwing up his hat and catching it again, to the great delight of two ducks, four cats, five hens, and half a dozen Irish children; for they were out of the city now.
“Hush! It won’t come to anything, I dare say; but I couldn’t rest till I had tried, and I said nothing about it, because I didn’t want anyone else to be disappointed.”
– Little Women by Louisa May Alcott