“The pocket-worlds of childhood”
In today’s edition of the New York Sun Eric Ormsby reviews two new histories of children’s literature including Seth Lerer’s new book, Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter. In the review Ormsby praises Lerer for his ability to capture the special role the iconic books of childhood play in the lives of young readers. Ormsby writes:
In Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter Seth Lerer notes that the history of children’s books is a study “of books as valued things, crafted and held, lived with and loved.” This fundamental insight gives a human touch to what might otherwise have been a dusty foray into long forgotten hornbooks and primers. But Mr. Lerer, a philologist by training — and professor of English at Stanford — loves words, as well as the books made from them, and he is an impassioned reader. Whether he’s discussing the grim New England Primer of 1727 or the decisive impact of Darwinism on late-19th-century children’s fiction, he has a keen sense of what he nicely calls “the pocket-worlds of childhood.…” As Mr. Lerer says, “the adventures of the child go on in secret spaces: in the purses, pockets, tills, and palms of life.” The most successful children’s books are those which capture something of that childhood sense of secrecy.