We have been on a journey, visited with metaphor, rhymed with Mother Goose, viewed picture books, seen fantastic flying books, heard fables and folk tales, myths and legends, met heroes, contemplated Scripture, embraced fantasy and imagined fiction. We read poems, touched the earth, soared the sky, and dove in the sea. And walked with a man and a bear in history. Now we continue our travel to the beginning of our story—the story of mankind. It does not end. We continue to tell it.
Our children can enjoy classic books on travel. Books that take them through direct experience such as The Land and People of South Africa (Lippincott, 1955), In Norway (Viking, 1948), and Here is the Far North (Scribner, 1957). [www.abebooks.com]
These writings present subjects realistically yet with understanding and sympathy.
Books that are an excellent writing of history always have compelling plot. Man is a Weaver by Elizabeth Chesley Baity (Viking, 1942), Never to Die: The Egyptians in Their Own Words by Josephine Mayer and Tom Prideaux (Viking Press, 1938), and George Washington’s World by Genevieve Foster (Scribner, 1941) are shining examples of using topics as a clue to the greater concept of man and progress of man.[i]
Now I present the first Newberry Award winner. The year was 1922. Written by historian Hendrik Willem Van Loon, it invites children to judge their past. It sweeps mankind’s history, not with criticism, but with tolerance and compassion.
The Story of Mankind
“The Setting of the Stage”
Source: Hendrik Van Loon, The Story of Mankind (Liveright, 1921)
Chapter 1 begins,
“We live under the shadow of a gigantic question mark.
Who are we?
Where do we come from?
Wither are we bound?
Slowly, but with persistent courage, we have been pushing this question mark further and further towards that distant line, beyond the horizon, where we hope to find our answer.
We have not gone very far.”
Van Loon goes on to deftly write about evolution, using earth’s inhabitants as story tellers. It is a fascinating read. This story is about our yesterday.
With Katherine Shippen we continue our story.
The Great Heritage
“We Have Tomorrow”
Katherine B. Shippen
Source: Katherine B. Shippen, The Great Heritage (Viking, 1947)
The anthology editors introduce us to the chapter of Shippen’s book by quoting Mary Austin’s work, The Promised Land. They write that the past belongs to us. Katherine Shippen states that we have inherited America’s earth and its people. She asks what will become of our future. Shall we explore deeper in the earth or in the sea? What shall we harvest? And then she asks a different question. What if our new achievement is not material, but humanitarian? And the quote she uses from Langston Hughes becomes the title to her chapter, “We Have Tomorrow.”
We’ll end there.
We have tomorrow
Bright before us
Like a flame.
Yesterday’s a night-gone thing
A sun-down name.
And dawn today
Broad arch above the road we came.
Source: Langston Hughes, The Dream Keeper (Knopf, 1932)
[i] Edna Johnson, Evelyn R. Sickels, and Frances Clarke Sayers, Anthology of Children’s Literature, 4th Edition (Houghton Mifflin, 1970)