A Story of Facts
Examples of living books are given in
my book titled A Charlotte Mason
Companion. One is of sea creatures, so
perhaps I should amend the opening
lines of this article. Pagoo by Holling
Clancy Holling is the book you see in
my photograph of the seashore. It was
with us when we visited my parents at
their bungalow on the Jersey shore. By
illustrating this article with it in such
a manner, I am giving it an honorary
position—something I would gladly
do with many delightful books we benefited from in our homeschool over the
years had I suitcases enough, as well as
the means, for transporting them (and
us) to exotic places.
It is safe to say that a living book is
written by an author who takes an enthusiastic interest in his subject. If the
book is for children, the facts might
be related in story form, but they are
always clothed in literary language.
The acknowledgement pages in Mr.
Holling’s Pagoo show the care he had
taken to present facts in this way. He
writes: “This book proves only a peek
into tide-pool life. If it awakens some
young reader to further interest in the
world under water, Pagoo will have
done his bit.” He tells us he picked a
hermit crab (Pagoo) as the main character “because these clownish creatures
are found along the beaches of many
seas.” The author is too modest. Pagoo
may be clownish, but his story is told
against a factual-rich background. He
supplies more details on tide-pool life
than any grade school textbook I have
come across. We would have to borrow
a weighty book out of the local library
on ocean life and wade through it to
uncover similar facts.
Normally we do not find Pagoo—or
other such storybooks—raised to a position equal to the textbook in the conventional classroom. Should we let this bias
lead us to think that such a delightful
combination of story, fact, and accurate
illustration is not educational enough
for our children? On the contrary, such
a book is extraordinarily educational because it reaches children in ways the typical dry-as-dust textbook cannot.
My son and I were excited to find a her-
mit crab in a tide-pool at a rocky beach
in Owl’s Head, Maine, not long after the
weeks we spent reading Pagoo (one short
chapter a day). The water was cold on our
bare feet, the wind chilly, but I stopped to
give thanks for the timely blessing.
The Living Book Test
The test of identifying a living book is
like the test of good literature in general.
It must be three things. It must bring
truth, nobility, and beauty.
•;It is not dumbed-down but is somewhat intellectual and bears truth.
•;It is ethical so that we are well nourished with noble ideas.
•;It is also artistic and makes its appeal
through the emotions.
The Human Touch
Charlotte Mason reminds us over and
over in her writings that “children are
born persons.” They are human beings.
And the style of writing that appeals
to them is that which includes the hu-
man touch. So we look for books with
that touch of originality—books that
warm the imagination. Do you see how
this kind of writing will satisfy a child’s
curiosity and foster a love of learning?
For all its lovely features, a living book
has the right to be called a schoolbook.
P.S. Pagoo is sold at
Home educators know Karen Andreola
by her groundbreaking book A Charlotte Mason Companion. Karen taught
her three children through high school—
studying with them all the many wonderful things her own education was missing.
The entire Andreola family writes product
reviews for Christian Book Distributors.
Knitting mittens and sweaters and cross-stitching historic samplers are activities
enjoyed in Karen’s leisure. For encouraging
ideas, visit her blog:
writing by hand with BARCHOWSKY;FLUENT;HANDWRITING
Come see: www.bfhhandwriting.com or phone Nan at 410-272-0836