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Fairy and Wonder Tales


The purpose of The Junior Classics is to provide, in ten volumes
containing about five thousand pages, a classified collection of tales,
stories, and poems, both ancient and modern, suitable for boys and
girls of from six to sixteen years of age. Thoughtful parents and
teachers, who realize the evils of indiscriminate reading on the part
of children, will appreciate the educational value of such a
collection. A child's taste in reading is formed, as a rule, in the
first ten or twelve years of its life, and experience has shown that
the childish mind will prefer good literature to any other, if access
to it is made easy, and will develop far better on literature of proved
merit than on trivial or transitory material.

The boy or girl who becomes familiar with the charming tales and poems
in this collection will have gained a knowledge of literature and
history that will be of high value in other school and home work. Here
are the real elements of imaginative narration, poetry, and ethics,
which should enter into the education of every English-speaking child.

This collection, carefully used by parents and teachers with due
reference to individual tastes and needs, will make many children enjoy
good literature. It will inspire them with a love of good reading,
which is the best possible result of any elementary education. The
child himself should be encouraged to make his own selections from this
large and varied collection, the child's enjoyment being the object in
view. A real and lasting interest in literature or in scholarship is
only to be developed through the individual's enjoyment of his mental

The most important change which has been made in American schools and
colleges within my memory is the substitution of leading for driving,
of inspiration for drill, of personal interest and love of work for
compulsion and fear. The schools are learning to use methods and
materials which interest and attract the children themselves. The
Junior Classics will put into the home the means of using this happy

Committing to memory beautiful pieces of literature, either prose or
poetry, for recitation before a friendly audience, acting charades or
plays, and reading aloud with vivacity and sympathetic emotion, are
good means of instruction at home or at school This collection contains
numerous admirable pieces of literature for such use. In teaching
English and English literature we should place more reliance upon
processes and acts which awaken emotion, stimulate interest, prove to
be enjoyable for the actors, and result in giving children the power of
entertaining people, of blessing others with noble pleasures which the
children create and share.

>From the home training during childhood there should result in the
child a taste for interesting and improving reading which will direct
and inspire its subsequent intellectual life. The training which
results in this taste for good reading, however unsystematic or
eccentric it may have been, has achieved one principal aim of
education; and any school or home training which does not result in
implanting this permanent taste has failed in a very important respect.
Guided and animated by this impulse to acquire knowledge and exercise
the imagination through good reading, the adult will continue to
educate him all through life.

The story of the human race through all its slow development should be
gradually conveyed to the child's mind from the time he begins to read,
or to listen to his mother reading; and with description of facts and
actual events should be mingled charming and uplifting products of the
imagination. To try to feed the minds of children upon facts alone is
undesirable and unwise. The immense product of the imagination in art
and literature is a concrete fact with which every educated human being
should be made somewhat familiar, that product being a very real part
of every individual's actual environment.

The right selection of reading matter for children is obviously of high
importance. Some of the mythologies, Old Testament stories, fairy
tales, and historical romances, on which earlier generations were
accustomed to feed the childish mind, contain a great deal that is
barbarous, perverse, or cruel; and to this infiltration into children's
minds, generation after generation, of immoral, cruel, or foolish ideas
is probably to be attributed in part the slow ethical progress of the
race. The commonest justification of this thoughtless practice is that
children do not apprehend the evil in the bad mental pictures with
which we foolishly supply them; but what should we think of a mother
who gave her children dirty milk or porridge, on the theory that the
children would not assimilate the dirt? Should we be less careful
about mental and moral food materials? The Junior Classics have been
selected with this principle in mind, without losing sight of the fact
that every developing human being needs to have a vision of the rough
and thorny road over which the human race has been slowly advancing
during thousands of years.

Whoever has committed to memory in childhood such Bible extracts as
Genesis i, the Ten Commandments, Psalm xxiii, Matthew v, 8-12, The
Lord's Prayer, and I Corinthians xiii, such English prose as Lincoln's
Gettysburg speech, Bacon's "Essay on Truth," and such poems as Bryant's
"Waterfowl," Addison's "Divine Ode," Milton's Sonnet on his Blindness,
Wotton's "How happy is he born or taught," Emerson's "Rhodora,"
Holmes's "Chambered Nautilus," and Gray's Elegy, and has stamped them
on his brain by frequent repetition, will have set up in his mind high
standards of noble thought and feeling, true patriotism, and pure
religion. He will also have laid in an invaluable store of good

While the majority of the tales and poems are intended for children who
have begun to do their own reading, there will be found in every volume
selections fit for reading aloud to younger children. Throughout the
collection the authors tell the stories in their own words; so that the
salt which gave them savor is preserved. There are some condensations
however, such as any good teller of borrowed stories would make; but as
a rule condensation has been applied only in the case of long works
which otherwise could not have been included. The notes which precede
the condensations supply explanations, and answer questions which
experience has shown boys and girls are apt to ask about the works
condensed or their authors.

The Junior Classics constitute a set of books whose contents will
delight children and at the same time satisfy the legitimate ethical
requirements of those who have the children's best interests at heart.

Charles W. Eliot


Notices of copyright on material used in these volumes appear on the
back of the title pages of the particular volumes in which the stories
are printed. A complete list of acknowledgments to authors and
publishers, for their kind permission to use copyrighted material, is
given on pages 3 to 6 of Volume Ten.

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