Monday, March 16, 2015

Old Things Become New

If you have read my opinion about children's literature very often, you know it is unapologetically emphatic in preferring old books over those written in the last 50 years. I subject "new" books to more stringent scrutiny and few meet my standards. For the record, I hold older books to the same standards, but many, many more of them meet the criteria of "living books."

It is not because I am superior in judgment or discrimination that I make these bold statements. When analyzing books, I humbly defer to the wisdom and knowledge of far more qualified individuals in the realm of children's literature than myself, such as C. S. Lewis, for example. I do not apologize for my prejudices against new books either, since over the last year-and-a-half, I have read overwhelmingly more "new" children's literature selections than old ones and this reading has only strengthened my view.

I bother to make these explanations, simply to add weight to a recommendation. In case you are unaware, one of the best children's books ever written, though little known because it has been out of print for many decades, has recently been republished by Purple House Press and is now available in paperback. Truly, This is a joyous gift to today's adults as well as children, for The Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy is unequivocally one of the best books ever written and deserves a place on the shelf with such classics as Heidi, A Little Princess, and Where the Red Fern Grows.

I have extolled the merits of Seredy's books many times in the past. She is an outstanding writer. When my family first heard about this particular title, we searched in vain to find a copy for under $75. One Christmas, it was a special gift to us all. We were not disappointed.

Some of the qualities of excellent literature are that the language is powerful, the characters believable and inspiring, and the events shared within that book change our own thinking and experience. All of these criteria, and more, can be said of The Chestry Oak. Briefly, it is the story of a young Hungarian prince and describes his life growing up in peacetime Hungary, the invasion of war into his idyllic world and its subsequent disastrous results in his life, and how he finds hope and happiness after it is over. It is heartwarming, suspenseful, and grippingly intriguing. The horror of  war is striking simply because the contrast of the power of love, trust, and obedience are magnificently portrayed.

The story of Michael in The Chestry Oak is unforgettable. The overwhelming gift the reader savors after reading it is hope. Hope is a vital force necessary for living, and is all-too-frequently absent in modern children's literature. it is worth of being counted as a classic because it begs to be read and reread. Earlier I referred to C. S. Lewis, and I can confidently say that it would meet his test that a book worth reading at age six, is equally worth reading at age 60. Everyone in your family will be caught up in this story. When we read it as a family, our age range was four years to 54 and the sharing of that book together is a treasured family experience.

Time will tell whether some current books endure to future generations, but this one certainly has.

For the joy of reading,



  1. We borrowed this book on a vacation from the local library where we were: Block Island, RI. Have my own copy now.

    1. We just put it into the hands of a mother in our library yesterday; she wanted something to read and was a bit skeptical about this one, but we are sure she will not be disappointed.

    2. I did the same thing last year, Liz. The mom called the very next morning sobbing and said she now knew TRULY what a living book was and she would never doubt me again. :)

    3. I am actually looking forward to rereading this book soon as it has been eight years and I'm sure I will enjoy it even more this time around.