We have a couple roosterlets that maraud through the halls of the manor with demands for food, horse rides, and stories, demands that we take seriously. I have few defenses against a boy who honestly thinks his dad can throw balls as high as the moon, and even fewer against a pair of doe-eyes and four peeping teeth. So they get fed, they get bounced, and above all, we try to fatten up their souls with good stories.
And we should, too. Stories give kids the means to judge the world around them, to discern truth from lies, good from evil, and beauty from ugliness. When kids see their favourite characters acting courageously, industriously, and with perseverance and duty to a cause greater than themselves, then they learn to want those things for themselves. When stories illustrate the cost of sin, kids learn that their sinful natures ought to be resisted. At their best, stories whet the appetite for Christ.
Chesterton, as always, says it best: “The baby has already known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”
With these convictions at heart, the eshet chayil set about this summer to filling out the bottom bookshelves. She found that books that have been awarded the Caldecott Medal are more often than not outstanding. The pictures are rich and vivid, with one author even making his pictures in the style of Italian Renaissance art. The stories are well told, too, and they haven’t been sterilized. St. George kills the dragon by ramming his sword down its throat. The wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother whole, who are saved when a hunter kills the wolf and cuts it open. Some of the pictures, like the sorceress in Rapunzel and the beasts in Comus, are frightening.
Here are four of them:
My favourite. This humble Puritan man and his family make everything from ox-carts to embroidery. Then he walks to Portsmouth market and sells it all, buys necessities for the next year and returns home. That’s it. To celebrate the story, this rooster clan is heading to Portsmouth at the end of summer.
This is a retelling of Edmund Spenser’s The Fairy Queen. It’s a classic that has inspired manhood in young boys for generations.
This is the aforementioned Italian renaissance-styled book. It’s an old story of lust, love, and long hair, but it’s the artwork that makes this edition.
It would be embarrassing to explain what this story’s about. This is a nice, full version, and the lovely pictures are a worthy aid to the imagination.