A Child's Delight by Noel Perrin

By Noel Perrin

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But think of the four-fifths who hadn't; think of the 88 percent who had never read so much as the marvelous opening sentence. Isn't it fair to write for Page xv Table 1The original 17 booksHeard of itActually read itLloyd Alexander, The Book of Three3720Lucy Boston, The Children of Green Knowe113Robert Burch, Queenie Peavey102Edward Eager, Half Magic127Rumer Godden, The Dolls' House29*5Virginia Hamilton, The Planet of Junior Brown80Nathaniel Hawthorne, Tanglewood Tales203William Horwood, Duncton Wood62Monroe Leaf, The Story of Ferdinand5234Ursula Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea2212Jean Merrill, The Pushcart War4218E.

More scarily, say it's a portrait by a good artist, the portrait of an old man. The artist did the eyes so well that no matter where you stand the portrait seems to be looking straight at you. You almost can't help feeling that the thing is alive, and you wonder uneasily what its intentions are. At least you might if you're alone in the room with it, and it's night, and there's no one within call. Such thoughts come most easily to children, of course, and hence much of the appeal of dolls, stuffed animals, and toy soldiers.

But the biggest source of pleasure is the style. Mary Stolz plays the English language the way Rostropovich plays the cello. She can make it do almost anything. That's easy for me to say; it's also easy for me to demonstrate. Consider just the first paragraph of the book, wherein the reader is plunged into Edward's life. Here is what Ms. Stolz writes: Edward Frost, who had his share of problems, didn't see how he'd ever solve the biggest one. This was Martin Hastings, the bully of Barkham Street.

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