Fun in the Children’s Section of a 1962 Library
No travel this week, instead Roadtrip-'62 ™ will be staying indoors. Imagine you’re a kid and it’s a cold, rainy day, so let’s play with our toys! I’ve already talked about toy guns, card games, and candy that we might have had in 1962. Today I’ll review some children’s books published that year that we might have read. I was only 9 years old that year, so I’m sure I read some of these!
The World Book Encyclopedia lists the following categories of children’s books. Mostly, I remember and think of books that fit the Folk Tales and Fantasies category. While the categories covering science and history are important, I doubt that most of us looking back at our time as kids would think much about those books. And the categories “Abridgements of Adult Books“, “Mostly for Older Boys”, and “Mostly for Older Girls” are what we call Young Adult books. Here’s a few representative books from each category: which ones do you remember?
For Reading Aloud and Sharing
- “Baby Elephant and the Secret Wishes” by Sesyle Joslin, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard – a story of Christmas gifts, one of several in the Baby Elephant series. A lot of text per picture, this is good for reading to children. It is easy to find used copies online.
- “The Snowy Day” written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats – Told with simple pictures evoking innocence, it follows an African American boy exploring his neighborhood after winter’s first snowfall. It was awarded the 1963 Caldecott Medal for Keat’s collage artwork, making it the first picture book with an African American protagonist to win a major children’s book award. It is still in print and available on Amazon.
For Beginning Readers and Picture-Book Audiences
- “How Do You Get from Here to There?” – by Nicholas J. Charles, illustrated by Karla Kuskin – The pictures answer the question in fun ways. It is hard to find used copies, or even library copies to borrow.
- “Policeman Small” – Lois Lenski – This was the final book in one of Lenski’s best-known bodies of work. The "Mr. Small" began in 1934 with “The Little Auto”. Each book showed the life of a friendly person in a simple world. Most have been reissued and are still available.
- “The Big Honey Hunt” – by Stan and Jan Berenstain – This was the first in the Berenstain Bears series by the couple. It introduces Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Brother Bear, but Sister Bear was not yet born. It was edited by Dr. Seuss. Their cartoons had been appearing in magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
Abridgements of Adult Books
- “Ten Great Plays” – by William Shakespeare with commentaries by Sir Tyrone Guthrie. This is exactly why I don’t think this entire category should be part of children’s books.
Folk Tales and Fantasies
- “Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book” – by Dr. Seuss – This takes a look at the sleep habits of some fantastical animals, all set in motion by a yawn from one small bug. It also reports the latest news in the sports of sleeptalking and sleepwalking, all in typical Dr. Seuss rhyme. As with most of Dr. Seuss’s books, it is still in print and available on Amazon.
- “The Genie and Joe Maloney” – by Anita Feagles, illustrated by Don Sibley – In a somewhat typical tale of a genie, Joe meets a jovial one who offers him three wishes. Of course the first two are granted in ways not quite as Joe expected, so he is uncertain if the genie will correctly grant his most important wish. You can read it at The Internet Archive.
Nature Science and Animal Stories
- “Fury and the White Mare” - by Albert G. Miller – At the time, Fury was America's most famous horse. The adventures of this black stallion and his young master, Joey were broadcast on television from 1955-1960. As always, the story is a heartwarming tale about a boy, his horse, and life in contemporary western ranch country.
- “Owls in the Family” – by Farley Mowat, illustrated by Robert Frankenburg. A short humorous story about a boy who brings home animals, and especially about his adventures with an injured owl. Many libraries still have this available.
Mostly for Older Boys and Mostly for Older Girls
- “The Clue of the Dancing Puppet” – by Caroline Keene – This is the 39th book in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series and the actual ghost writer was Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, who wrote many of these books. Nancy searches a mansion's dark, musty attic for clues and runs into jewel thieves. My wife used to enjoy reading these mysteries when she was young.
- “The Clue of the Screeching Owl” – by Franklin W. Dixon – Of course, if the girls had a mystery series, the boys needed one too! This is the 41st book in the Hardy Boys Mystery Stories and the actual ghost writer was James Buechler. Frank and Joe Hardy help their father's friend, a retired police captain, solve a mystery in the Pocono Mountains. We had several of these books when I was kid and I don’t believe I ever read one.
- “A Wrinkle in Time” – by Madeleine L'Engle has to be my favorite book from 1962, though I didn’t read it until about 3 years later. I read it early in my entry into reading science fiction, and it showed me the wide possibilities of the genre which held my attention for the next 20 years or so. It is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg Wallace and her brother and friend, in search of Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem. The book was the winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963.
The other categories of children’s books all strike me as close to school text books. I used to read some of this type, mostly about the solar system or chemistry, as my elementary school had a great library. But I’ve listed one representative title in each category to give an overview of what was published in 1962 anyway.
Books About Other Lands – “Playtime in Africa” – by Efua Sutherland – This uses photographs to explore how children of Ghana played, showing popular games like hopscotch and marbles.
Books About the United States – “On the Way Home” – by Laura Ingalls Wilder – The author of the popular Little House book series tells of her married life with parts of her diary, detailing a trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894.
Important People in Books – “Grover Cleveland” – by Edwin Hoyt – One of many biographies of presidents and other important historical figures published in 1962 and designed for younger readers.
Psychology, Mathematics, and Science – “Oceans” – by Irving and Ruth Adler – This book explains ocean plants, animals, currents, tides, and more with many illustrations.
Using Science Today – “The Fabulous Isotopes” – by Robin McKown, illustrated by Isadore Steinberg – A history and examples of the use of radioactive isotopes in medicine, agriculture, and industry. This sounds just like the kind of books I read back then! This book is also available to read at the Internet Archive.
Music and Art Books – “Sand Sculpturing” – by Mickey Klar Marks, photos by Sidney G. Bernard – Directions on creating sand sculptures suitable for all ages. Besides authoring other books, Mr. Marks was a frequent writer of humor comic books targeted towards children during the 1940s and 1950s.
I always enjoyed the Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers when I was young and over the past several years I have reread them. They’re still a lot of fun. They were very popular in the early 1960s, so Walt Disney brought out its “Mary Poppins” movie in 1963. I have one more left to read in the series, “Mary Poppins From A to Z”. It just so happens to have been published in 1962, so I guess it’s time to reread it! I’m off to my local library to find it now. And after I read it, I’ll be off on the next Roadtrip-'62 ™ journey!
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