Just So Stories

Classic Review – Just So Stories
I t was only a century ago, as everybody remembers, that literary sucklings were nurtured on the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, Paradise Lost, and Fox’s Book of Martyrs. This was not in all respects an admirable diet for readers of any age, but it had its good points. There is a chance that an imaginative child may be helped toward a taste for good literature by having to amuse himself with that or nothing; he may delight in the rhythm of great poetry or the stately march of great prose before he can get an inkling as to what it is all about. But the situation is hardly imaginable nowadays, since children have plenty of reading to amuse themselves with besides the best. They are no longer required to be seen and not heard, or to put up with the scraps of literature which may fall from the wholesome (that is, tiresome) table of their elders. A much pleasanter bill of fare is being provided for them, and it is confidently expected that the early courses of sugarwater and lollipop will gently and kindergartenly induce an appetite for the ensuing roast. The fact is, our guilt has come home to us. We have not been treating the child properly for the past ten thousand years or so, and we are in a creditable hurry to make it up to him, at the expense of our own rights if necessary; and we do books, among other things, in his honor, by way of propitiating him.
[This review of Kipling’s Just So stories from the Atlantic Monthly of May 1903, while not mentioning Lear, emphasises the change that occured in the perception of children’s literature during the XIX c.]

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