Friday, December 6, 2013

The Silent Reading Hour illustrated by Lucille Enders

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."

The stories are full of all sorts of adventures. One lucky Little Boy gets to ride on a train; another takes a thrilling spin in an airplane. The girls, who don't seem to have as many exploits as the boys, learn to sew and make clothes for "babies who had no mothers to care for them and lived together in a Home." There is even one story that offers a lesson on animal tracks - dog, bird, and rabbit.

My favorite story is the one about good friends and neighbors Bill and Buddy who build a bird pool. They dig the hole, line it with stones, pour the cement over the stones, and print in the wet mortar the words: Drink, Thirsty Little Birds.

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.


  1. What a sweet discovery. I have some books from my own childhood, but nothing from my mother's. The illustrations are lovely, and it sounds like the stories are, too.

    1. I love the first drawing of the young child in bed. I want a bed just like that one situated under a big window with birds twittering me awake every morning! The illustrations capture such a simple lifestyle - one with no televisions or video games. In today's world, those children would be shown with cell phones clamped to their ears!

  2. When I'm looking at books for my three grandnieces (all under 3 years), the first thing I look at is the illustrations. They make or break a book as far as I'm concerned. I don't see a lot of good illustrations in children's books today. My favorites are Jerry Pinkney and Barry Moser.

    My almost 3-year-old grandniece wrote to Santa the other day and asked for a birdhouse and a beehive for Christmas! Maybe Santa will bring her one of those, I'm hoping it will be the birdhouse!

    1. Joan, I had to look up samples of the work of both the illustrators you mentioned. Quite sophisticated drawings! I can see why they would be popular.

      What appeals most to me is the simplicity of Ms. Enders's work. And her color palette. I am sure my mom loved these stories and drawings.

      What a wonderful Christmas wish list - I hope your grandniece gets a birdhouse. It seems safer than a beehive. She must be quite the nature lover.

  3. Thank you for the pictures. They are very typical of the 1920s and look familiar. We must have had children's books with pictures by that illustrator.

    The stories where the boys have the adventures and the girls learn to sew are also, alas, typical of that period. I remember going to school and reading Dick and Jane and being distressed that Dick had all the fun while Jane just got stand around and admire him.

    1. Lucille Enders created some lovely illustrations, didn't she. Her work made it into many books for children.

      It amused me, from afar, (and distressed me) that these stories starred mostly boys. Some things never change.