Welcome to the 1940s!
If you have been following my classic children’s books by the decades lists (I love you.) then you know I have been bumping off the big names in order to introduce you to titles which you might otherwise pass by. Today we’re looking at children’s books from the 1940s and this week I died a little inside by not including My Father’s Dragon, Homer Price and Betsy-Tacy. (Oh, look! I just managed to mention them!) Yet, I am not afraid to say that I do believe you will find a book on this list that you will love just as much as those famous favorites.
The Doll’s House. (1947) Not to be confused with a certain Norwegian play, Rumer Godden’s story, written from the dolls’ point of view, was one of my childhood favorites. A much loved doll family finally gets to move out of their shoebox house into an elegant Victorian manor. Only the manor comes with the beautiful but haughty doll, Marchpane. Tasha Tudor’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment. (Ignore the unfortunate contemporary cover above!)
Twig. (1942) This was another favorite of mine when I was a girl. With a few found objects Twig transforms her corner of Chicago into an imaginary, fairytale world. A little Elf, who comes out of a book shrinks her down to size so she can join the fairies… for a while. So sweet and charming it’s hard not to love this book. A great read aloud for fairy-loving kids.
The Swish of the Curtain. (1941) This book will be almost impossible to find if you live in the US, but it is still readily available in the UK. (I’ve linked to the UK Amazon page here so you can read the reviews and such.) I’m including it on this list as a bit of an in-house favorite since the plot revolves around the theater. Written when the author was only 14 (!), the book follows the adventures of seven children as they produce and perform in their own stage company. If your children have read and enjoyed Noel Streatfield’s Shoes books, this book should be next on the list.
Comet in Moominland. (1947) This is the first of Finnish author Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. All the Moominbooks are gentle, quirky fantasy stories about a group of charming creatures. In this book Sniff and Moomintroll learn a comet is heading towards Moominvalley. Only the greatest of curmudgeons will not love Jansson’s creations.
The Little White Horse. (1946) Goudge was a favorite author of the young J.K. Rowling for those of you who enjoy facts like that (as I do!). Orphan Maria Merryweather goes to live with her cousin in his beautiful home, Moonacre Manor. A secret and magical past surrounds the house and Maria find herself smack dab in the midst of an intriguing mystery in which she is the heroine.
The Twenty-One Balloons. (1947) This Newbery Medal book follows the journey of Professor William Waterman Sherman who crossed the Pacific in his hot air balloon only to land on the isolated island of Krakatoa. He finds a strange society centered on the wealth of the local diamond mine and escapes with them when the volcano erupts. There is much in this book to interest kids who love adventure and fantastical inventions.
The School for Cats. (1947) There are many sweet and funny books from Ester Averill about black cat Jenny Linksy and her urban feline friends. In this one Jenny goes off to cat boarding school where she encounters Pickles, the fire cat. Perfect for kids just delving into chapter books.
Rabbit Hill. (1944) Anthropomorphized animals in rural Connecticut hope the “New Folks coming” to their farm will will bring positive changes to the land. Things don’t go quite as expected, however. A lovely read for those who love animal stories.
Mistress Masham’s Repose. (1946) Parent-less but spirited, Maria, (so little time, so many books about orphans to read) discovers Gulliver’s kingdom of Lilliput. Humorous adventures, decaying English manors, odious guardians and a resourceful heroine are always hallmarks of a classic children’s book. Great for older kids or as a read aloud.
Have your children read any of these books? Did you read any as a child. Leave a comment and let us know.
Visit my other posts in this series:
Classic Children’s Books: 19th Century
Classic Children’s Books: 1900s
Classic Children’s Books: 1910s
Classic Children’s Books: 1920s
Classic Children’s Books: 1930s
Classic Children’s Books: 1940s
Classic Children’s Books: 1950s
Classic Children’s Books: 1960s
Classic Children’s Books: 1970s
Classic Children’s Books: 1980s
Classic Children’s Books: 1990s
This post is part of The Children’s Bookshelf, a weekly gathering of children’s book posts aimed at connecting parents with great books for their kids.