I can't resist old writing books. What am I saying? I can't resist new writing books!
Some time ago I came across a little volume called The Trade of Authorship by Wolstan Dixey, Editor of Treasure-Trove Magazine, formerly literary editor of The New York School Journal and other periodicals. 128 pages--not including the typewriter advertisements in the back of the book.
Mr. Dixey's take on everything from Pay to Hygiene for Authors is incredibly entertaining, but at the very end of the book is a page worth repeating here:
WRITING FOR CHILDREN
Think of children as actively growing up and looking the way they are growing; don't try to write within their thoughtless comprehension; but rather a little above them; keep them on tip-toe, for they grow faster than the press can turn out your writing.
Miss Kirk says in this connection:
A sad or depressing story is as unfit for a child's mind as the moss-grown walls of a cloister for his little bounding body. Pathetic tales of dead birds and maimed kittens and outcast dogs have made too much imaginative misery for the little ones. Let the birds sing and the kittens frolic and the dogs enjoy life in the children's stories, whatever sad fate may befall them in city streets. Children should be made happier and healthier by what they read as by what they play.
This is well said and very true; yet there is another side of the question. Most healthy children are practically little savages; the number is probably increasing in the coming generation, that tends so largely toward a fine physical development. It is as natural for many of these youngsters to maul and pull and squeeze and torture dumb animals as it is to breathe. Not from meanness or inherent wickedness, but simply because they have not been educated; and it is an important branch of their education that they be made to look upon animals as fellow-creatures and friends. This heart education, if given in the right way, so far from making the children namby-pamby, will give them more genuine manliness and womanliness. Beside, true pathos,--if not overdone--is as genial an influence as humor, and with it goes naturally hand in hand.
* * * * * * *
Now, back to the beginning of Wolstan Dixey's book:
Gentle reader, "a big book is a big evil:" I have tried to make this as small as possible. Credit me with doing my best to give you your money's worth: I have credited you with a dollar. Remember we are comrades in arms, and ought to stand shoulder to shoulder. If I have said anything that seems a little sharp and unkind, it is not so intended.
Need I say more?