One fine day we found wonder in a little antique shop…
My son and I were browsing and I came upon a lovely little booth filled with toys and books from the the same era as my childhood. There was a set of 1987 Childcraft books there and they were only $30 US. I had always wanted a set for my classroom, so I took them to the register.
There was a kindly older woman who ran the shop. She seemed quite taken with my son. When it was time for us to go she very kindly helped us to our car with them. She revealed to us that the books had been her daughter’s, but she was now grown and moved away. I was so touched by this. It seemed so special that we had gotten to meet the person who actually cared enough to purchase these for her child.
When we got home and everyone was settled down I started to look through these books. I don’t think I had ever opened one before. I didn’t expect much, but I was shocked by what I found inside.
It was real, normal education, with normal families, from all races doing wholesome activities. There was no Marxism or social justice, or doublespeak. They were totally safe for kids and it was refreshing to read a book without indoctrination in it! As I read I experienced wonder. I wanted to learn what was in these books; I wanted to keep reading. I couldn’t stop reading! I also couldn’t stop telling my kids what I was learning about! As I read to my youngest he started to experience it too! We were so excited about what we were learning!
I decided to try to find more information on these great books online. I was surprised to find they were easy to find and inexpensive on E-Bay ( I ended up buying an older set for my classroom because I wanted to keep this set at home!), but there was little to no information about them otherwise. Wikipedia had a pretty good entry and I did find two sites that had excellent resources:
Plumfield & Paideia, named for Louisa May Alcott’s unconventional school in “Little Men” and the ancient Greek education, was a wellspring of information about the books. Over several entries they provide insights and scans of different volumes over different time periods. This is also a good homeschooling resource page!
http://plumfieldandpaideia.com/childcraft/ this is the main page with links to all the articles.
http://plumfieldandpaideia.com/childcraft/list-of-childcraft-volumes/ this is a good resource page to help you know what volumes have been offered. Besides the main set they published an annual every year about a topic.
The Art of Children’s Picture Books is a site devoted to- well it’s self-explanatory!
http://theartofchildrenspicturebooks.blogspot.com/2013/04/childcraft-library-poems-and-rhymes.htmlshows some of the absolutely gorgeous illustrations in the mid-century books.
http://theartofchildrenspicturebooks.blogspot.com/2011/10/childcraft-library-make-and-do-part-two.html shows scans from one of the most popular volumes- a for sure boredom buster!
ALL of the books are excellent, even those on subjects we weren’t interested in! Here are a few of our favorites: (A lot of these are annuals- separate from the base set. The annuals are easily found on E-Bay for about $4 US each.)
My son was immediately drawn to The Puzzle Book (an annual) and we had many fun hours trying to figure them all out. (Thankfully the answers are fully explained on other pages!)
An annual I really enjoyed was The Magic of Words. It explained so many strange things about our English language. I found it so interesting to learn the history and spelling reasons, as well as the whys of our odd language.
My favorite book of the whole series is Mathemagic. I am terrible at math. This book makes math so much easier for me to understand and brings out the wonder of math, something sorely lacking in my school years! My son has really enjoyed this book, especially studying the Fibonacci sequence and making Mobius strips. I will echo many other people when I say if you can only buy one book- buy this one!
The last annual, The Secret Files of Professor L. Otto Funn, made in 2014, shows a sad decline in the layout and artwork of this once epic book series, but it is packed with great fun things to do and experiments. My kids have really enjoyed this volume and I will be using it a lot in my classroom, especially when I’m trying to think of meaningful, fun activities that teach.
Lastly is Mysteries and Fantasies which has been the most requested bedtime read in our house all summer. This annual provides lots of great insight into hard things for us to understand. The authors give a very balanced and safe reasoning process for a lot of phenomena. It has helped my kids feel safer about some of the scarier mysteries in our world. It is a very fascinating read!
I will end here, with a picture of my set for my classroom. This lovely set from the 60s is in a rainbow color scheme that actually goes with the color wheel! (There are a few more volumes than colors in the wheel so they did some more pinks.) Be still my art-teacherin’ heart! I can’t wait until my building opens again so I can put these in my art room!
The Childcraft books truly are an amazing resource- an education in a set of books! They are so wonderful that I recommend them for everyone! Once you start reading them you won’t be able to stop! I know I can’t wait to use them in my classroom and at home this coming school year!
With love and rainbows of books and wonder to you from Kansas Street,