Friday, February 6, 2009

25. Fifty Famous Stories Retold

Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin
Illustrator not given

Pages: 186
Finished: Feb. 5, 2009
First Published: 1896
Genre: children, short stories
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: read-aloud to the 8yo. I'm also a fan of James Baldwin ever since I read his The Story of Siegfried to my older son about 10 years ago.

First sentence:

There are numerous time-honored stories which have become so incorporated into the literature and thought of our race that a knowledge of them is an indispensable part of one's education.

Comments: This is a collection of stories or "tales" that have been told over and over again throughout the centuries and unfortunately they are not as popular as they once were. Some of the tales are about real-life people and some are fictional heroes. Some are true and some are not, but the point is, each tells the tale of someone brave and heroic giving the reader a life-lesson without being didactic. Yes, there are some well-known tales such as some Greek myths, Sir Walter Raleigh, Pocahontas, and the fabricated yet well-told story of George Washington and the apple tree. Most of the stories however will be unknown to today's generation and I, myself, was only familiar with about half of them.

The stories focus is world wide, there are only a couple of American tales. Most come from England (such as King Alfred), then lots of Greek and Roman tales (though not many myths). Also featured are tales of explorers, sailors, William Tell, Napoleon, King Alfred, Robin Hood, Alexander the Great, Socrates and many others, many of whom I had not heard before.

Each story has one illustration, probably an engraving from the time period, artists' name are on some but they are too tiny to really read. James Baldwin writes for children in a easy storyteller mode often speaking directly to the reader. The 8yo and I enjoyed the stories just as much. I enjoyed finding tales I'd never heard before and he loved the swashbuckling tales of heroes. As in Baldwin's opening sentence in the Introduction these are tales which we should not let fade from our society. Some are still around today, but many are fading fast. Recommended!

The independent publishers Yesterday's Classics have reprinted many of Baldwin's books and I intend on getting more. They also have a wide catalogue of late 19th century children's books.

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