Our Wonder World: A Library of Knowledge in Ten Volumes (1914) is a set of 11 (there’s a supplement!) children’s topical encyclopedias. At the end of the Story section of Volume Eight Story and History we find “GOOD BOOKS TO READ: One hundred and fifty volumes that would make a home library worth having. … This list of books is meant to help you choose stories that will interest you and you will be glad to have read. It contains only books that are worth reading.”
Looking at the list, I had in the back of my brain something I’d read a long time ago. I could paraphrase it well enough, but that wasn’t good enough. And then I found it in Johnson’s Fourth Reader (1897). Tell the stories!
He welcomed the story as an old and dear friend.
Lovely, don’t you think?
Anyway–I mention this because a few days after I enjoyed Volume Eight, and found the passage in Johnson’s, I perused Amazon’s “100 Children’s Books to Read in a Lifetime.” What rubbish. I recognized 22 (of 100) that I would consider classics, and I even allowed for modern classics such as My Side of the Mountain and The Secret Garden. There were 14 (of 22 I recognized) of these more contemporary titles on the list. That leaves eight–of 100–that would have been both on Amazon’s list, and on the “Good Books to Read” in 1914 list.
Or–and let me turn on that part of my brain that does arithmetic–to put it another way, 92 out of 100 (that’s about 92%) of the books Amazon thinks are worth kids reading have been written since 1914! That’s pretty freaking stunning.
Our Wonder World: A Library of Knowledge in Ten Volumes Volume Eight Story and History. Howard Benjamin Grose, ed. Geo. L. Shuman & Co., Chicago and Boston. 1914.
An earlier version of this post was originally published at Bigfoodetc.com on December 4, 2018; updated for clarity and content here.