The Book Tree: A Christian Reference for Children’s Literature is exactly what it says it is – a book reference guide. Although the preface is addressed to Christians, I really do think this book would serve Christian and non-Christian alike quite well. Published by Canon Press, the authors of this book have “done the leg work” in compiling a list of some of the best children’s literature of all times. There are hundreds of titles included in this book, with short descriptions for each work. The books are separated in appropriate age categories beginning with Preschool Literature and taking you all the way through high school. All of the titles are nicely organized in the back both by title and then again by author for easy access.
What this book attempts to do is to provide a handy reference for parents, teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. to be able to offer good reading material to the children in their charge. This book is friendly enough and easy enough to use that children themselves should be able to open this book and grab a suggestion for a good book to read.
The reason it is subtitled “A Christian Reference for Children’s Literature” is because the authors and compilers of this work are Christians and they’ve taken the time to eliminate books from their “Master List” that involve language, sexual references, etc. Basically they’ve removed things which might be considered objectionable by the conservative reader (Christian OR non). However, anyone and everyone has different standards and areas in literature that they are perfectly willing (and enthusiastic about!) quibbling over. Assume that the books recommended within the covers of this one are generally clean and unobjectionable.
In the preface to the book they take the time to talk about the benefits of reading good literature. They quote C.S. Lewis as saying, “a children’s story which is only enjoyed by children is a bad children’s story.” His point was that good literature is good for all. McCallum and Scott also argue the point that abridged stories aren’t really beneficial to children and that instead of “dumbing down” literature we should raise our children up to classic standards. I do happen to agree with them with the caveat being that I also happen to think that illustrated works and some manipulatives can be helpful in better understanding works of the past.
Yet this is not just a book that focuses on classics. It is updated through today’s literature and, as our editor at 5 Minutes for Books will be delighted to know, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? also makes the cut. (The second edition of the this book didn’t catch The Mysterious Benedict Society but I’ll be lobbying for that in the Third Edition.)
On the whole I find this book to be a marvelous resource full of good ideas and good stories to introduce children to. It’s a tool worth investing in and I think you’ll be delighted with it.
The publisher of this book, Canon Press, has graciously offered to giveaway one copy to one of our readers. You must be a U.S. Resident to win. If you would like to be entered in the contest, please leave a comment below. Good luck! We’ll announce the winner on Wednesday January 21.
Carrie comes by her book obsession honestly, having descended from a long line of bibliophiles. She blogs about books regularly at Reading to Know.