In working on the card catalog of my library, I discovered a book that came from my family collection: The Silent Reading Hour - First Reader. It has my mom's and her brother's names inscribed on the inside cover. The copyright date is 1924. The editors are listed as Guy Thomas Buswell, associate professor of education at University of Chicago and William Henry Wheeler.
Professor Buswell, who lived to the ripe age of 103, was known for his studies on how children read.
What attracted me to this book were the illustrations by Lucille Enders of whom I could find absolutely no biographical information whatsoever. She is listed as illustrator, though, in all sorts of books for children: Wag and Puff, Surprise Stories, and In All France, one in a series of books about children's lives in other countries.
Ms. Enders's illustrations accompany sweet little stories about Jack, Peter and Jane, and Toni and his monkey Pippo. One tale tells of Betty who races across the street to the Balloon Man, falls down in the path of an auto, but is scooped to safety just in time by the vendor.
The children attend a circus parade, help out a carpenter in his workshop, follow the scissors grinder, join in with a troop of marching soldiers, visit a doll hospital, and are enchanted with the sight of a paper balloon launched into the Fourth of July night sky.
"And then up, up, up sailed the balloon like a big moon, with a tail that burned yellow, white, and blue in the sky."
These tales are full of friendship and growing-up-lessons (in the case of Betty, one should look both ways before crossing the street). They show the children being kind to animals, getting into a bit of harmless mischief, and there seem to be lots of cookies, too.
The stories and poems included in The Silent Reading Hour are all written by women: Louise Ayres Garnett, Annette Wynne, Edwina Pope Larimer, Josette Eugénie Spink, and Violet Millis.
Oddly enough, there are no stories about books or reading. There is this one little poem by Annette Wynne and I will close with it:
Take some little words,
Place them in a row,
Soon you have a pretty story
Made before you know.
Tales of house and hill,
Butterflies and birds,
Anything at all you will,
Made from little words.