Last spring CHRISTIANITY TODAY published an article on children’s books by Bonnie M. Greene, “The Books No One Notices” (April 23). In it she urged Christians to take children’s literature more seriously and listed some qualities to look for in a book for children. Her advice was well taken. To help readers select good books for children I will regularly review some new books from major publishers. This time I will concentrate on books for younger children; some are Christmas books, and others would make excellent presents.
Since these books are meant to be read aloud to younger children, it is important how the words sound, how sentences are put together, what the rhythm feels like. Are the rhymes clever? How well has the author used alliteration (repetition of initial sounds), onomatopoeia (words that sound like the thing described or named), and assonance (repetition of vowel sounds)? Those are some of the tools of writing. Used skillfully they stimulate a child’s imagination and teach him to love the flavor and feel of words. The surest way to make a child dislike reading is to give him books filled with pedestrian language.
Wilma Shore tells her tale of Who in the Zoo (Lippincott, $4.95) using many of these techniques, particularly assonance. Although it gets a little heavy-handed, children should enjoy hearing this clever little story.
Most books for young children are now heavily illustrated, usually with a great deal of color. Bruno Bettelheim (The Uses of Enchantment) thinks that a picture book destroys or drugs a child’s imagination. If a story is already illustrated, a child’s imagination has nothing to do, he says.
For certain stories this may be true. But if the illustrations reinforce the words, if they are skillfully ...1
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