The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Book Reviews

Volume 12, no. 9, 1901, pgs. 896-897

The Violet Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang (Longmans 6/-). We think Mr. Andrew Lang has kept his best to the last, and that his Purple Book is better than the Pink or Yellow, Green or Red, if that is possible. By the way, we should not call it Purple, because the Violet Fairy Book is "dedicated to Violet Myers." The child who gets this book at Christmas will love it with a great love; and there are few grown-ups who will not find it touching to be thus introduced to the child thought of the world. Servia, Russia, Japan Esthionia, Swahili-land, Roumania, all sorts of out-of-the-way lands, yield up their child-lore to Mr. Andrew Lang and his co-adjutors. As the test of the genuine fairy-tale is that no person can make it, but that it must grow of itself from the roots of a people's life, here we get the very thing. When a child reads the charming Story of a Gazelle, it will have a fuller flavour for him if he knows that black picaninnies have gathered round their mother's feet in the kraal for, possibly, thousands of years to hear the self-same tale. That to another, dainty little Japanese children have also listened with breathless interest to ages untold. Mr. Lang's Fairy Books should help English children to share the childhood of all peoples in all ages, and are thus helping to secure that solidarity of the race, the meaning of which is one of the lessons set for our generation. The tales themselves are, of course, enchanting as genuine fairy-tales must needs be. The pictures are various in kind and quality. There are glowing coloured pictures which speak of the East, and there are delightful wood-cuts—old German, we should think—full of quaintness and vigour, as where Hannah does not recognize Jem, and that delightful picture in Two in a Sack, where the naughty wife is being beaten because she beat her husband. The tales are racy, of the soil, and of the pathetic wisdom of the people.

Inmates of my House and Garden, and Glimpses into Plant Life, by Mrs. Brightwen (Fisher Unwin, 2/-). We rejoice that these old friends, long familiar to children in the Parents' Review School, may now be had for 2/- a volume. "I have set down," says Mrs. Brightwen, "as plainly as I could, what I have myself observed and experienced." This it is which gives an extraordinary charm to her account of the inmates of her delightful house and garden. These are very various, ranging from lemurs to drone-flies, from squirrels to the clothes' moth: and the child who reads of Mrs. Brightwen's Inmates gets his feet on the ladder. He learns that creatures, like people, are to be known one by one, and reveal themselves to their intimates in a surprising and delightful way. The picture of Pearlie basking before the fire on a footstool should make everybody long for a lemur; and this is how Mrs. Brightwen comes by her knowledge, and how she communicates it:—"These lemurs are always giving me surprises. I was quite unprepared for the remarkable power the ring-tailed lemurs posses of running swiftly up the flat surface of a door, but this Pearlie did with the greatest ease, and then sat calmly looking down at me from the top as if enjoying my amazement. I was led to examine his paws, and found that they were provided with elastic pads somewhat like a fly's foot with its suckers, and then reading about this particular species I learned," etc., etc. We think Mrs. Brightwen's idea of offering to children, by proxy, intimacy with a large number of her indoor pets and outdoor friends is admirable. Instead of reducing knowledge of classes to the pap which children are supposed to like, they are here offered intimacy with individuals, and will go on to study, group, and classify for themselves.

Glimpses into Plant Life seems to us a more difficult undertaking, but it is accomplished on the same principle and with the same success. "I want," says the author, "to make my young friends able, when they see a bud, or a root, or a twig, to know what the history of that object is, how it comes to have the shape it takes, how it developed into its present condition, and what its next form will be." Mrs. Brightwen's garden, "that she loves," serves her well. Her chapters upon flowers, buds, pollination, fruit, and so on, are full of the charm of knowledge in the getting. The dry, second-hand information is made to live under her touch, and living examples and new knowledge quicken every page. The illustrations are charming and very illuminating. Dull diagrams give place to sketches instinct with life and often of great beauty, as, for example, the group of beech trees with interlacing stem and roots, or, again, the twig of the horse-chestnut. Every touch is tender and proclaims the loving naturalist. But here, as in the former book, Mrs. Brightwen's strength is in her intimate treatment of individuals.

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Mar 2009