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Save the children (from bad books)

Save the children (from bad books)

(Krieg Barrie)

Plot lines flush with ungodly trends. Coarse language. We love our children and the books that provide warmth and wonder, but many current books for children reflect baby boom coarseness of thought and language. How can parents sort good from bad?

This special section offers a little help. It starts with our choice for Children’s Book of the Year, and notes eight other good new ones. Then come warnings: a column on refusals to see differences between boys and girls, an article on gloomy young-adult fiction. Then back to good news: reviews of new picture book biographies and a “staff favorite” page that praises C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and some surprises. The section ends with an article on well-known Christian authors writing children’s books.

Parents might also go online and read our “Nifty 50” cover story in the July 1, 2000, issue, which listed 50 great 20th-century books for children. Here’s a list of my own, father-tested top 10 picture books that are great because they offer delight—but also subtle instruction.

• The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown: The persistent bunny mother acts as does God in Psalm 139.

• Yellow & Pink by William Stieg: In this clever argument for creation, two marionettes ponder how they came to be.

• Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss: Elephant Horton is a pro-life hero as he refuses to let unborn babies die.

• The Bed Book by Sylvia Plath: With a world of excitement and challenge around us, we can go beyond our “white little, tucked-in-tight little, nighty-night little, turn-out-the-light little bed.”

• Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson: Also an ode to adventure and creative escape from danger.

• Freight Train by Donald Crews: A wonderful read-aloud story about a train, with great rhythms that kids love.

• I, Mouse by Robert Kraus: A fearless little creature saves a family and gains respect.

• Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak: Seasonal challenges and comforts.

• Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall: Intro to economics, with a farmer taking his crop to market, selling everything, and walking home with seeds, tools, and presents.

• Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: There’s no place like home.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. His latest book is World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


  • dcsfoyle's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 02:47 pm

    I recently discovered Ox-Cart Man in some children's books we picked up from a library book sale. I have to say that it immediately became one of my favorites to read to my children. Not only is it a good intro to economics, but I feel like it also emphasizes the father's place at the head of the household without ignoring the work that his wife and children have done to make it a successful family. --They all contribute to the livelihood of the family, but he represents the family at the market and sells their produce and buys the tools for next year's work.On the other hand I've personally never liked Harold and the Purple Crayon. I don't care much for books where parents belong in the story and yet they are absent. Even as a kid (my younger brother owned this book) it bothered me that he never attempted to find his way back to his real home. Not to ignore Harold's creativity, but his "home" at the end of the book is only as real as all the imagined situations he faces.

  • Postmodern Redneck
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 02:47 pm

    I have always liked C. S. Lewis' dictum that any children's book that did not have enough substance to it to keep an adult willing to read it aloud to a child was a bad children's book.