|The Junior Classics: The Young Folks' Shelf of Books|
So as not to let the adults have all the fun with The Harvard Classics, in 1912 Collier's published a set of ten volumes for children entitled The Junior Classics: The Young Folks' Shelf of Books. It doesn't take up a 'five-foot shelf ' as the books for the older readers, but the books are filled with fairy tales and folk tales, the adventures of heroes and heroines, animal and nature stories, and an entire volume of poetry.
This is from the introduction to the junior set written by Dr. Charles W. Eliot, he of Harvard:
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.
My set, with its dark maroon bindings, came to me from someone in my family. It was published in 1912 and I am only missing two of the volumes: III (Stories from Greece and Rome) and V (Stories That Never Grow Old). Not bad for a collection that is 100 years old!
There is a Reading Guide in Volume X that gives a list of Best Books to read as further investigation into the type of stories that each volume contains. That is very helpful.
There is an Index of Authors and an Index of Titles as well as a breakdown by school grade of the works appropriate for those ages. Each volume has illustrations which add to the charm.
Among the authors are Aesop, Louisa M. Alcott, Washington Irving, Beatrix Potter, Sir Walter Scott, and William Shakespeare. Titles include The Ugly Duckling, The Sword of Excalibur, O Captain! My Captain! and, A Visit From St. Nicholas. This last selection was bookmarked with a wide red ribbon. A popular choice apparently.
Because my childhood reading was pretty much what Dr. Eliot warns against - "trivial and transitory" - I most likely would benefit from reading some of the selections in The Junior Classics. And even though the pages are a bit musty smelling, the ideas and words and principles they contain continue to be pure and fragrant.