A Child's Delight by Noel Perrin

By Noel Perrin

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What they read is usually random. If lucky, they'll be given a few of the classics of children's literature as birthday and Christmas presents. They may hump up against a few others in school. A handful they may see transformed into videos. But there are many wonderful minor classics and even some major ones they are apt to miss altogetherunless a parent or an uncle or a godmother steps in. This book is designed to assist steppers-in. It consists of thirty short essays, each about a wonderful but little-known book for children.

It goes like this. Somewhere in England lives a crow who loves to garden. Despite his being a bird of good family, clearly a gentleman (you can tell by the pictures), he personally does all the work. As Brooke succinctly puts it: Johnny Crow Would dig and sow Till he made a little Garden. English understatement. That garden is not little, it's huge. ) It even has ornamental topiary, including an arched entranceway with the word ''Welcome" spelled out in living green. Page 2 A real garden by real crows, I think, would consist entirely of corn.

The format of the quiz was simple. By each of the nineteen titles I drew two little boxes. If a student had heard of the book, he or she checked the first box. If they had actually read it, they also checked the second. The whole quiz took about a minute. Four students had cut class that day, so I got a nice, round, statistically impressive fifty answers. These answers so surprised me that I decided to check them, and make sure Dartmouth students aren't a bibliological anomaly. ) The next week I got a friend who teaches at Exeter to give the quiz to fifty of his high school-age students.

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