In case you missed it, I recently published an essay at Crisis Magazine on The Importance of Myths and Fairy Tales for Christian Children.
To compliment the essay, I am sharing seven of our favorite books/authors for pre-school and kindergarten aged children.
1. Nursery Rhymes, Illustrated by Douglas Gorsline. There are some beautiful collections of nursery rhymes, even at big book stores (if you can find one). We found this edition at our local library when we lived in Buffalo, NY. It is out of print, but the copies are really cheap, and if you are unsure about the conservative nature of this book just read the one review on Amazon by an Amy S.:
“This book on nursery rhymes contains some obscure ones (e.g.Elsie Marley, Little Miss Tucket, Cock Robin) along with the perennial favorites to wow fellow students at preschool. Alcoholism, bashing in of craniums, thievery, corporal punishment, birdicide, and giant, nosy insects are all here, just as they were in the last century, if not centuries ago. (I mean the rhymes, not the cited incidents.) Old-fashioned illustrations of all British classes at their best and worst adds charm and spirit to these rhymes. Not for the faint of heart.“
This is the kind of book to prep your nursery aged children for the Greek myths.
2. Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books:
The Blue Fairy Book
The Red Fairy Book
The Green Fairy Book
The Yellow Fairy Book
The Pink Fairy Book
The Grey Fairy Book
The Violet Fairy Book
The Crimson Fairy Book
The Brown Fairy Book
The Orange Fairy Book
The Olive Fairy Book
The Lilac Fairy Book
These are collected tales from around the world. J.R.R. Tolkien criticizes them in being called “fairy” tales, since many of them do not in fact have magic or fairies. But they are a great exposure to folk tales around the world, and you know they are good because they were published from 1889-1910.
3. D’aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths: This volume of the myths is edited just right for small children. It begins with the origins of the Greek gods, tells the myths about each one, and then goes into the myths about mortals. D’aulaire also did a book of Norse Myths (and many other interesting looking books) which we have yet to check out.
4. Bullfinch’s Mythology: This collection of Greek, Roman, Arthurian Mythology and the Legends of Charlemagne and we have not yet read to our children, but my husband spent hours reading it as a child. Bullfinch tells the story and then tells the allusions in British literature to each of the myths. The books are more appropriate for ages 10 and up. We have yet to find an version of the Roman myths that we really like for younger children.
5. Children’s Book of Virtues edited by William J. Bennett is a collection of fully illustrated classic tales teaching children about virtue. He also has longer works with fewer illustrations but more great tales, The Book of Virtues and The Moral Compass.
6. Howard Pyle’s works and illustrations: We especially like The Wonder Clock, a collection of silly and clever moral tales. And we are currently reading his King Arthur stories (in which are toned down very well for young ears): Story of King Arthur and His Knights, Story of the Champions of the Round table, Story of Sir Lancelot and his Champions, Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur. Pyle compiled and wrote many other volumes of stories that we have yet to read.
7. Complete Beatrix Potter: I linked the box set of the individual little white books because for little kids and little hands I really like having the little books. We did not buy the box set all at once, but have been giving them individually for every birthday and Christmas since our eldest’s first Christmas. We will have the complete set by this Christmas (which will be our eldest’s seventh). You may wonder why I am ranking these newer books with the older, more traditional tales of Western culture. First of all, they are absolutely brilliant. Second of all, Potter draws from the English speaking tradition in her stories, referencing nursery rhymes and riddles that English speaking children should know, and if they do not yet, will learn through her tales. She is a great example of how nursery rhymes are an essential foundation for a complete literary education.
P.S. I would love to hear of any other great books of nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and myths, especially ones with beautiful illustrations!
I am linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum with these seven quick takes!