The Delights of Childcraft, part 1

I remember the first book that taught me to love poetry as a child. “Antonio, Antonio,” by Laura E. Richards, was in the second volume of Childcraft, and it was so silly and delightful, it didn’t take me long to memorize it, even though it was a whole page long. Even better, the same author had written “Eletelephony,” found in the same volume, and I learned that the joy of poetry is simply playing with words.

I also discovered “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes in the same volume. Oh, those haunting illustrations which enhanced the dramatic pathos of the romantic narrative! When I learned that Anne of Green Gables recited that poem, I memorized it too, taking great pride in being able to recite six whole pages of poetry. I was all about drama in those days, white poet’s shirt and all.

Although I enjoy few opportunities for “sitting and knitting alonio” these days, and have few occasions in which to impress audiences with my elocution, I have been enthusiastically revisiting that vintage set of volumes. (I liked the fairy tales volume in the 1970’s edition, but not so much the illustrations.) This summer it occurred to me that my set of Childcraft (1954-1961 copyright dates) would quite handily provide a well-rounded education for my younger three boys (8, 5 and 3), if I could just work them into my regular reading rotation. For those who are interested in the Charlotte Mason methods, these are definitely living books.

We have already finished reading the fairy tales (vol.3) at tea time, mostly on our front porch. We also brought it along when we invited ourselves for tea at the home of an elderly lady in our church and her daughter. You are not too old for such stories at 90+, and it supplies “conversation” when topics are lacking.

Many people prize the My Book House set, and those are lovely, too. But if you happen to see a set of Childcraft at your grandmother’s house or a booksale, take a minute to browse them: they fit a lot of treasure in a little space. If you find the later editions, from the 70’s and beyond, look through those as well. There are reasonably priced, used, individual copies on www.abebooks.com (which is where I am looking for my missing volume 6).

Now what are the contents of these lovely books? Check back tomorrow and I’ll introduce them to you individually.

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6 Comments

  1. Linda Sims on August 21, 2019 at 9:44 am

    Are the earlier volumes the best set to purchase?

    • Megan on August 21, 2019 at 5:30 pm

      Personally, I think the older ones are more timeless. We also had the 1970s edition when I was growing up, and my boys love the Puzzles annual volume we currently own. I don’t think the illustrations in the later version have aged as well, but it all really depends on how you plan to use them. I wouldn’t rush out and buy a whole set of either one unless you find them as a bargain, but you could pick up one or two used Childcraft volumes of poetry and fairy tales for starters. Check back tomorrow for a more in-depth look at the individual titles in the 1961 set.
      Betsy owns the later ones, so I’ll refer specific questions about those volumes to her. 🙂
      Thanks for asking!

  2. Kim on August 21, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    I love Childcraft also and have held onto
    them for my kids and grandkids. Mine are the early version of the books from the 60s. Beautiful illustrations.

    • Megan on August 21, 2019 at 7:57 pm

      Hooray! So glad you appreciate them too.

  3. Brenda Stinson Thomas on August 24, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    Bless you! This was my set, which I still own. I believe these books, especially volumes 1-3 markedly shaped my love for beauty, art, music, animals, and reading. As an only child, I spent hours reading and looking at the pictures. I thought to purchase a set for my first child in the 8o’s but was very disappointed when I saw the updated artwork and content. I would highly recommend this edition if you can find it.

    • Megan on August 27, 2019 at 8:20 pm

      We had the 70s edition; I don’t know how many editions have followed. I’m so glad you have a set! Enjoy and share it.

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