Directions in children's literature; 1
Directions in children's literature. Riverside radio WRVO in New York City presents the first program of the second series with Richard Lewis teacher and poet and leading authorities in the field of children's literature. At this time Mr. Pearce his guest is Miriam Morton editor and translator whose recent anthology a harvest of Russian children's literature is published by the University of California Press. Mr. Gross and Mrs. Morton are heard in the first part of a two part discussion on the world of Russian children's literature. When on a sunny morning you walk through the meadow toward the forest you will see jewels scattered over the grass. Well these jewels glistened in the sun and flashing many colors yellow with red and blue. When you get nearer and look closer you will see that the gems are grubs and do not have gathered in the
blades of grass and reflect the rays of the sun. Begin side of each blade is mossy and downy like velvet and the dew drops roll over the blades of grass without wetting them. When you happen to tear off a blade with a dew drop in it the drop will roll like a tiny light. Well perhaps you will tear off a little cup full. Carefully raise it to your lips and drink up to do drop. You are likely to think it's the most delicious drink there is. I've just been reading a very very beautiful prose poem entitled The dew on the grass by Leo Tolstoy. And this is from a book entitled The Harvest Russian children's literature published by the University of California Press and
edited by Mrs Miriam Morton. And today we're going to be talking with Mrs. Morton about the whole character of Russian children's literature and I'm very happy to have you here. This is Norton and I think perhaps the best way of getting into this whole area is first to ask you what in your opinion seem to be the differences between Russian literature for children and the literature that is given to children in the English speaking. Well I think that the major difference is the author the people who have written for children in Russia. This goes back to the 19th century when the Russian author had assigned to himself the role of the civilised their human nicer than the people
of the Russian child of the 19th century was mainly the serf child a culturally very much deprived child. And the Russian authors and intellectuals generally felt that the Russia worse ever going to rise from the darkness of serfdom. Illiteracy and oppression and join the civilized world. Her children would have to be properly inspired and educated and they assigned to themselves this role. And among these people were figures like Leo Tolstoy who not only established a school for peasant children modeled after the philosophy of education of Rousseau he was a great admirer of Rousseau and the only emblem he ever wore was a cameo of Rousseau. And he had traveled to Europe to acquaint himself with the most progressive
educational theories those to him self had spent some time in Europe for this specific purpose. Well He typified the motivation of the great Russian authors in connection with educating the Russian child through literature. He typifies this whole phenomenon he wrote over 600 works for children menu which appeared in four graded readers that were used as the readers and all of Russian schools for two generations of children. He spent 14 years in selecting and writing for these readers and when they were finished he felt that this was really going to be his mind you and not his works like war and peace and the kind you know I think in your book you quote a selection from tall stories or with the words and
diaries of war and when you said that he now can die peacefully. Yes and this is this is what he said so I have read exactly his words and they did appear in his diaries. These are my proud thoughts about my school readers. They are the only readers that will be used to teach two generations of Russian children from the Czar's to the peasants and from these readers they will receive their first poetic impressions and having written these books I can now die in peace. And by poetic impressions Tolstoy meant the lyrical and the exulting in life revealed together and with the tragic and deplorable the lyrical and the exalting. And this is really the. Credo of the Russian realist writers of theirs is the optimistic realist and they see the poetry and the promise of life as well as its
so what it misses and likes are sort of on to see if they believe in reaching forward be unreachable star so to speak. Actually I'd like to just stop you in just a minute there because I think the point that you're making it is terribly important terms of the conference is that obviously in either American the future must take America in the future for children or even English of your children. There have been very very few writers who have been writing or who have been writing for adults who. Literally turned as Tolstoy had turned to writing for children who made it a very specific task to somehow song of the problems of writing for children. And I think this to me personally is one of the really extraordinary things about the literature which is in your book that in this country unfortunately we have a group we have a great deal of talent and now we have some good
authors turning to children's literature. But the whole effort is not not coherent it is not sufficiently purposeful and I don't know of any major author whose major interest in his writing is literature for young readers. Yes in terms of. Writers who are actually now writing children you mentioned also in your books and there are I don't know if I have the correct number. Over a hundred sixty different languages spoken in Russian. Now is there some sort of control for instance where when an author is writing in say in Russian that his particular works are translated and all of these different languages. Well I wouldn't say you and I and all the Russian publication is set up for vast additions multi lingual additions. I couldn't say that translated and all. But let me
tell you I met a young library and Lasko whose specialty was the more esoteric cultures. There's a constant exchange of translating from the Russian into the other languages and from the other languages into the Russian and I was as a result of this I was able to offer in my own thought logy was the Russian children's literature at least 14 folktale some of these very as it Terry distant peoples which had been translated into Russian and thus made available to a Russian translate into English for years now and hearing you on this whole subject. One of the things which really comes to mind is that if children in Russia. Being nurtured in such a profound way through literature through writing. Is it fair to say that children by and large are readers at a very young and early age.
Much more so perhaps than they are in this country where the cry is now growing up the children are not reading the way they used to because of the influences of television watching on. Well yes. Traditionally the Russians are great readers perhaps one of the characters heirs of the long winter. The atmosphere there Allan means there and so one more conducive to a quieter life. But it sure has been stressed and is being stressed more than any other face of culture. And this touches the child as much as the adult. I know the library's very well attended private collections among children and very much encouraged. The books that that being published in these vast additions incredibly vast additions are snapped up. It is difficult to find books in print in the bookstores because they are so widely bought. They are also very inexpensive which is part of the publishing
program to make books available to families of lower income and not only are the books published and made available at low prices and bought and cherished. But there is the whole theory being put into effect are developing what they call the talented reader of Russian children's poet Samuel Marsh truck was the light several decades ago. This effort to develop the talented reader and he writes very convincingly this Samuel. I have several selections of this in the anthology is devoted 40 years of his creative life to writing for children to write in criticism of children's literature about to come back to the concept of the talented reader. The feeling is that it isn't enough to have talented writers that in order for the
best right the writer has to offer to be absorbed and perceived by the reader the reader has to be a cultivated reader so that from the age of 3 in the Russian educational system the child is introduced to books in such a way and books are read to him and discussed with him and. Performing with him in such a way that he begins to from an early age to be able to sense the quality of the writing. And if this goes on very systematic early and very with great great deal of perception and skill you know throughout the child's school career so that by the time a Russian youngster is 16 years old he can analyze and evaluate the works of that it year with the great player and perception. And so here you
have the talented reader who was ready to go to the adult literature with the preparation enables him to be greatly enriched by this adult literature you know pleasurable and the whole idea of the adult literature because I notice that. The other term things that I know is first that children are considered children to 17 or 18 17 18 years old. And I think this is an interesting point but I also notice that much of the material particularly for the older children the teenagers as we would consider them here. Doesn't it mince words. They deal with realism in a very very direct fashion as you pointed out in the book. There isn't this confusion that we often get in the literature in this country between trying to delude the reader into what reality really is all about. And then when that child goes out
into the reality get into the reality they discover it's quite different. Much of the material is being written for the Russian teenager so to speak really is coming to grips with the reality that he is presently faced with is my estimate yes you're right. I sense this is something that's very strong and throughout the whole book. Ingens about your adult approach. Yes well this is part of the the theory that Tolstoy put forth about revealing the tragic and the deplorable to the younger reader. But also the good things in your life. I came across a book published in 1896. It was in the introduction to a collection of writings by Does the U.S. Ski for teenagers. And in this introduction a year professor of literature speaks of why does the U.S. Ski is suitable
material selected for the CFB for teenagers. And in his introduction there's the core of the whole philosophy about realism for young people. If we had the time I'd like to read from it is our number. You have been quoted in your book as a member and I was very impressed. Well that the gist of what this professor says and I quoted him because I know the Russians are very much guided by this theory is that. No matter how depressing and sordid reality is if the author inspires by his revelations of reality a love for humanity my love for the characters and the tears that the child might shed on health thought hears because they will make him more sensitive more feeling more human being and the human being who will want to dedicate himself in some fashion
to improving things so that these deplorable things don't happen to human beings. Yes. Now on the other extreme I noticed and I perhaps you could go into this a little bit more detail. That from a very young child. There is an enormous amount of fantasy an enormous amount of nonsense verse and so on which somehow really strikes true it isn't force noncitizen for Spencer's fantasy it's really remarkably true to the age group that it's dealing with. I wonder if you could perhaps spanking my speaking about this. Give us an idea in terms of the book itself how you structured the book and the various types of material. But the book itself contains because I think this certainly will give our listeners some idea of the richness of the literature itself. While the book is divided into four sections three sections are for three different age groups but I did this in a relaxed way
I think that some children can grow to more mature writing than others so that as I said in my introduction there's only a half title page distance between the child and his exploration of the book but roughly speaking the book is divided into three age groups the preschool child and the child in the primary grades. The middle aged child up to the age of twelve and from twelve to fifteen and up. Now in the first section there is a great deal of verse and short stories of full of fantasy and humor and some of the short stories are what are called science fantasies. Scientific fact and unadulterated scientific fact is President of the aged child in the form of a fairy tale and it's now done in a modern way I think it's very good. A great deal of charm and with a great deal of concern for the literary quality and the scientific fact I might say at this point a few more words about
the the spirit of the poetry and the prose offered to the very young child. This too is not come about just by chance. Back in the early 1930s a few important writers among them Gorky and the Mark Marcia whom I already mentioned got together to to help bring into the world what they called a great literature a little fork. Because of greater literacy before the revolution and the general attitude toward children which was not a very good one part of the official officialdom there was very little for the very young child where they thought they had clear clear ground. They decided that they were the child needs is a cheerful fancy for a literate you're to start him off with the feeling. Joy did this so natural to children. Joy in his books as well. And to make him feel good about the world to make him feel
that life is as and his side and another children's poet can you get your coffee ski speaks at length about this in a book that he wrote about the child from 2 to 5. How important it is for the young child to feel that life is something secure and happy. Then as it grows older when he faces some of the hardships of life he has the inner strength to cope with that. And my 50 odd selections for the young child bring their very strong play the cheerfulness and the positiveness and the fantasy and the nonsense of literature for the young. Then the next section for the middle aged child I concentrate on two things there to present selections that will give the American child. An idea about how his counterpart in the Soviet Union lives his school a situation his particular kind of Michelle gives a rather nice image. The true image of the Russian school
child's then in this section too I went on to to show House sciences is worked into fiction for this age child and I have several selections from the longer books which have scientific age flavor but together with a great deal a lot and story quality so that these two things. Are revealed through to our middle age child at this school the Russian school child and science fiction. Yes I was fascinated by the material you had of the scientific nature which had the fantasy fairy tale quality. I was there was one of the snowflake which you know yes all the time there was a snowflake Yes and one would immediately because of. Orientation to Once Upon a Time quality you think. Now we're going to know you know all about this particular stuff like to do all sorts of magical things but yet in fact it's a very scientific approach mixed in with fantasy is
a lovely little and it's a way I think bridging this gap is there's a whole genre of literature in Russia for the child of this nature. I for instance have an excerpt from a story about a dog a mongrel dog who ran away from his master. A boy who was interested in rockets and who built a rocket and experimented with it with his little dog the dog got singed and angry and ran away and subsequently he was trained in a Space Institute to fly. And he became a great celebrity as a space dog the owner and the dog are reunited in the end but the dog continues his career as a space dog. But with this story of the losing the dog and finding a dog and so on and so forth which is which moves on a very nice space. But the it's the reader gets a very good truthful description of how animals are trained for space flight. There's a fascinating combination you know putting plot into song and yet this book all
men a cabbage is the most popular book among Russian schoolchildren. By the way I took a poll in several classes that there is age groups about their most favorite books and I used the selections from those books that they listed as their most favorite what could go on to the next age group in terms of American literature is popular with Russian children. Well Mark Twain I think Mark Twain is the greatest favorite. They have published Mark Twain and you know over a million copies and different cities published in different editions. The full works this and that. Astronomical figures and not only is he known and read and staged and to see her but authors admit that they have been greatly inspired by one of children's author Leah because Seal told me there were two major influences in his life. The Poet Maya Chua Skee who taught him how to live.
Mark Twain who taught him how to write Uncle Tom's Cabin is very widely read James Fenimore Cooper everything he's written is read there by children. A book like the old man and the sea by Hemingway of us first published for young readers before a translator and published for young readers before it became available for adults. Esther Forbes Johnny Tremaine has published an 85000 copy EDITION. Dahi Sterling story Mary Jane about the negro girl was the first new gross student in an integrated school in the south of us published 100000 copy edition and I saw a letter from a little girl way off in the north west in Siberia to the publishers that bought this book she said. Mary Jane absolutely must come and study at her school. She thought this was a true story and she assumed that there was a Mary Jane who might come unstuck in her school. Since 1963
there are more English translations American publications of Russian children's stories put the older child particularly. It's been an amazing number of books published in the last two years for instance and I think that the appearance of Mr. Klock ski's book from 2 to 5 gave this a great spurt because soon after that book appeared there was an article in The New York Times Book Review about a Russian children's literature in the form of 20 questions and 20 answers on the literature. Ever since then this was in 1964 the publishers here became aware they exist and so there's something in here that this section particularly offers writings by the Russian greats whose. The whole market their writing of course is the famous Russian realist and now what is distinctive about a Russian realistic writing from the writing. This
is a rather it's as interesting a subject as it is evasive It is difficult to pinpoint it but it is done. I think of their recess think of glee and wealth by a French critic whose name is Deb or gay. He had been in the diplomatic service in Russia in the 19th century and began and became very fond of Russian literature and great enthusiastic as a matter of fact. And after returning to France he assigned to himself the mission of introducing Russian writing to the French world of letters. He wrote a great deal translated of the major Russian authors of the time and this is but he had to say about a particular kind of realist I'm offered in Russian writing. He says we are seduced by the qualities that they appear to be incompatible. The most naive simplicity and a subtleness of psychological analysis we are amazed at the total
comprehension of the inner man such as we have never met before at the perfection of natural in this truth of feelings and language among all the characters. After sympathy the distinctive trait of these realists is a sense of what there is of life beneath and around them. They close in under study of the real more completely than has ever been done. Nevertheless they meditate on the invisible. Over and beyond the normal things which they describe exactly. They grant a secret attention to our knowledge things which they suspect their characters are disturbed by the universal mystery and however strongly involved they appear to be in the actual world. They contemplate and think and feel the yet unknown. Well I think that this combination of emphasis on the real and emphasis on the more.
Mystic and mysterious in man and man's condition. But in vich is a Russian writing so much and I and a good deal of this is offered to the young reader who in Russia by the age of 14 is a talented reader in this part of the book for the older child. There are such authors as invited to again hear me how you all sought to question the Dean who is the swift of Russia a great satirist a man who belonged to the landed aristocracy but who had dedicated his entire creative life to writing a biography of the Russian served in the Great sit through it with great satirical talent there was this story by him in this section of one by Vladimir and a tool by Anton to a blank theme Gore the Soviet writer Valentin cut
and well known in the western world a story by the Russian Nobel Prize when the. And one an excerpt from a novel by Barry Svrluga one of the major war novels this morning I'm very sorry but I believe our time has come to an end but I would like for our next program to continue with what we were discussing in terms of the way you have broken the book up into various sections and the very richness of material that is actually within the book. Thank you very very much and we look forward to the next program. You have been listening to Richard Lewis and the editor and translator Miriam Oaten in the first part of a two part discussion on the world of Russian children's literature. This is Morgan's recent anthology a harvest of Russian children's literature is under the University of California Press imprint the poet and teacher Richard Lewis is the author of four volumes of poetry for children recently miracles a
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- Chicago: “Directions in children's literature; 1,” 1968-11-13, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 4, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t43j2g69.
- MLA: “Directions in children's literature; 1.” 1968-11-13. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 4, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t43j2g69>.
- APA: Directions in children's literature; 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t43j2g69