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Before Austen Comes Aesop: The Children’s Great Books and How to Experience Them

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This unique work presents an in-depth examination of the stories and poetry that have made the most profound impact on the lives of children throughout Western history—the “Children’s Great Books.” This is a research based list of the crème de la crème of children’s literature. In this rare, multi-level resource, parents learn how to help their children experience these tim This unique work presents an in-depth examination of the stories and poetry that have made the most profound impact on the lives of children throughout Western history—the “Children’s Great Books.” This is a research based list of the crème de la crème of children’s literature. In this rare, multi-level resource, parents learn how to help their children experience these timeless classics through three “adventures.” Parents seeking a relaxed but meaningful approach to the Children’s Great Books can choose between the leisurely adventure and book club(ish) adventure. They are designed to promote a love of reading and an appreciation of good books through cozy hours of solitude or lively discussion. The scholarly adventure is designed for home-school parents and other literature educators. It offers a sequential method for studying literature using fundamental principles common to most literature programs. Parents can choose from both an elementary method and a secondary method, and use it in place of structured, guided programs year after year. A variety of appendices can be used as supplemental aids.


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This unique work presents an in-depth examination of the stories and poetry that have made the most profound impact on the lives of children throughout Western history—the “Children’s Great Books.” This is a research based list of the crème de la crème of children’s literature. In this rare, multi-level resource, parents learn how to help their children experience these tim This unique work presents an in-depth examination of the stories and poetry that have made the most profound impact on the lives of children throughout Western history—the “Children’s Great Books.” This is a research based list of the crème de la crème of children’s literature. In this rare, multi-level resource, parents learn how to help their children experience these timeless classics through three “adventures.” Parents seeking a relaxed but meaningful approach to the Children’s Great Books can choose between the leisurely adventure and book club(ish) adventure. They are designed to promote a love of reading and an appreciation of good books through cozy hours of solitude or lively discussion. The scholarly adventure is designed for home-school parents and other literature educators. It offers a sequential method for studying literature using fundamental principles common to most literature programs. Parents can choose from both an elementary method and a secondary method, and use it in place of structured, guided programs year after year. A variety of appendices can be used as supplemental aids.

53 review for Before Austen Comes Aesop: The Children’s Great Books and How to Experience Them

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nicki

    I enjoyed this book. It’s similar to other books for recommended reading lists for children/young adults. But it also includes how to incorporate the books with reading notebook journals and how to structure your own “reading curriculum”. I appreciate having a layout to follow and new ideas for incorporating the books into not just my children’s life but my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kerstin

    ”Far too many children grow up without reading the great classics of children’s literature” Probably most of us fall into this category. Cheri Blomquist contributed a most valuable resource for all those who want to catch up on good children’s literature, though we are not the main focus of her book, lovely as the thought is. She also ponders the question if we rush too fast into adult classics before children and teenagers are ready for them. A very valid question! I have often wondered why we ”Far too many children grow up without reading the great classics of children’s literature” Probably most of us fall into this category. Cheri Blomquist contributed a most valuable resource for all those who want to catch up on good children’s literature, though we are not the main focus of her book, lovely as the thought is. She also ponders the question if we rush too fast into adult classics before children and teenagers are ready for them. A very valid question! I have often wondered why we had to read tediously boring books in school when far more engaging literature could have been chosen without any loss of quality. It imparts on the student the false premise that classics are boring, when in fact the very opposite is true. A great story is a great story – what difference does it make whether it was written for children or adults? Part of the premise of the book is that over the centuries great children’s literature has been written, it should be honored in its own right, and Blomquist proposes a “Children’s Great Books” catalog. In the first part of the book she covers the historical development of children’s literature within Western civilization over the centuries until the year 2,000 subdivided into different time periods. Blomquist highlights the most influential titles of each time period into “fundamental” and “important,” as these often birthed a new genre, such as Robinson Crusoe and the beginning of many adventure stories featuring islands or being stranded on a distant shore somewhere, or had some other major impact. Blomquist also gives each of these titles a short treatment on their themes and virtues. In addition, each time period has about 30 – 40 additional titles of note listed. As we get closer to the present, especially after 1965, there are more and more titles that are given a parental caution. These books have content that may be offensive or mature. I really like this feature. It gives parents especially a heads-up and the ability to discern if a given title is age-appropriate, should only be read with parental supervision, or simply ditched. The second part of the book offers suggestions for students, parents, home educators, and teachers, various implementing strategies. These are not applicable in my case, so I pretty much skipped that part. There is a comprehensive appendix where all the titles are in list form for easy reference and further resources given. To me the history of children’s literature and the impact of certain titles over time is the most fascinating part of this reference work. The titles were chosen not on the basis of personal preference of the author, but due to their importance to the genre, and she does note when she struggled including a title here and there. I like the honesty. Some titles are not my cup of tea either. Many years ago John Senior introduced the concept of reading a thousand good books in preparation for the greatest one hundred, and the “worksheet” (his word) of titles he prepared starts with age two. Blomquist’s book not only dovetails beautifully but fleshes out why the titles she suggests have merit and, most importantly, deserve our time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Karen (Living Unabridged)

    I enjoy books about books and this is a solid, if not groundbreaking, entry in that line. Could also be used for creating a book club or literature class for elementary or secondary students. I'm still not entirely sure what the criteria for choosing the books was. (There seemed to be several the author chose herself and then there were a few she said she "didn't" want to include but had to.) Primarily liked this for backing me up in the idea that we (read: educators in general) are assigning the I enjoy books about books and this is a solid, if not groundbreaking, entry in that line. Could also be used for creating a book club or literature class for elementary or secondary students. I'm still not entirely sure what the criteria for choosing the books was. (There seemed to be several the author chose herself and then there were a few she said she "didn't" want to include but had to.) Primarily liked this for backing me up in the idea that we (read: educators in general) are assigning the wrong books at the wrong time. Kids need a solid footing in foundational literature before we assign Great Expectations or The Great Gatsby, is all I'm arguing. So, yeah. Make sure you've read Aesop before you read Austen. [/rant]

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Wolfe

    Useful book lists, for sure, but I expected more from this. Some odd scoffing at modern concerns about race/class/etc content in some of the books. Purporting to create a book that could be used as a literature curriculum, she made an odd choice not to include an appendix that listed the books by her recommended reading/interest level. In order to actually plan to use this curriculum (and it's important to note her suggested methods are neither classical or standard) you'd need to go through the Useful book lists, for sure, but I expected more from this. Some odd scoffing at modern concerns about race/class/etc content in some of the books. Purporting to create a book that could be used as a literature curriculum, she made an odd choice not to include an appendix that listed the books by her recommended reading/interest level. In order to actually plan to use this curriculum (and it's important to note her suggested methods are neither classical or standard) you'd need to go through the entire book and make your own list from her chronological lists.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Rogers

    4.5 rounded up This was a wonderful resource on selecting classic children's literature. It is divided into several sections. Part one reviews over classical works sorted based on when they were written. Blomquist reviewed multiple lists to compile an objective list of key children's classics throughout the ages. I appreciated how for many of the works she provided a short summary, and for some works provided disclosures for content that not all ages or children at a set age are ready for. Part t 4.5 rounded up This was a wonderful resource on selecting classic children's literature. It is divided into several sections. Part one reviews over classical works sorted based on when they were written. Blomquist reviewed multiple lists to compile an objective list of key children's classics throughout the ages. I appreciated how for many of the works she provided a short summary, and for some works provided disclosures for content that not all ages or children at a set age are ready for. Part two includes several "reading adventures." These adventures details how to have a leisurely reading adventure, a book club style adventure, or a scholarly adventure, and breaks up each of these into older and younger age group suggestions. Blomquist provides a lot of details in this section and the appendices to help you form a formal literature program. This book is a great reference for all parents who want to ensure they raise well read children, and particularly would be a beneficial read for homeschooling parents. The information in this book could be used alongside a formal literature program, or used to assist in the development of your own family literature program.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Prince Cad Ali Cad

    3.5/5 (?) Before Austen Comes Aesop steps readers through the Great Books of Children's literature. While not writing from a Catholic perspective per se, the writer does focus on Western canon and the influence of said works in Western civilization as a whole (at least as regards children), and the book is published by Ignatius Press. The first half of the book contains bite-sized blurbs on foundational and recommended readings, begining with Scripture and ending with modern works. While the auth 3.5/5 (?) Before Austen Comes Aesop steps readers through the Great Books of Children's literature. While not writing from a Catholic perspective per se, the writer does focus on Western canon and the influence of said works in Western civilization as a whole (at least as regards children), and the book is published by Ignatius Press. The first half of the book contains bite-sized blurbs on foundational and recommended readings, begining with Scripture and ending with modern works. While the authoress does state inclusions are based on influence and not personal preference, some of the modern inclusions and exclusions are puzzling (she herself admits that time has not proven all the selections). In another instance, she refuses to address the controversy surrounding the Harry Potter series, stating that such a discussion is not the point of the book, while having just noted the controversy surrounding the Golden Compass series and why the motivating principles of that work are problematic from a traditional Western worldview. The second portion for the book is a guide for parents to use in educating their children by the Great Books. This is a pretty dull portion, but made exciting by the thought of reading and discussing such books with your children or loved ones. It would be fun to use to guide with friends - working through the works with others for mutual enrichment. But teaching your own children, selecting the books for them to read, seeing them (hopefully) enraptured by the writing - what a joy! Books contains appendixes, which are useful in simplifying the material. A secularly-minded person would get as much from this book as a homeschooling, Catholic parent. Ending Gripe: Why wasn't Thomas the Tank Engine included? Baffles the mind.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Excellent reading lists for children's literature class. Excellent reading lists for children's literature class.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Jerome

    Very thought out reading lists throughout literature history.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katie Fitzgerald

    My husband bought a copy of this for me because I was excited about it, but it wound up falling kind of flat. The book lists are interesting, but I'm not sold on the whole reading program the author sets up. I think I was hoping for more discussion of the importance of reading great books and how exactly those books prepare kids to read classics later on. My husband bought a copy of this for me because I was excited about it, but it wound up falling kind of flat. The book lists are interesting, but I'm not sold on the whole reading program the author sets up. I think I was hoping for more discussion of the importance of reading great books and how exactly those books prepare kids to read classics later on.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robert Federline

    This is a tremendous work on the literature of children and young people that is a great guide for educators, as well as for parents and others who want their children to be well founded in the cultural heritage of the western world. It identifies (without reflection on ideologies) those works of literature, going back thousands of years, to the present, which have had a major impact on the literature of western society. Works are identified as foundational, for the indelible imprint they have le This is a tremendous work on the literature of children and young people that is a great guide for educators, as well as for parents and others who want their children to be well founded in the cultural heritage of the western world. It identifies (without reflection on ideologies) those works of literature, going back thousands of years, to the present, which have had a major impact on the literature of western society. Works are identified as foundational, for the indelible imprint they have left on thinking and perspectives over time. Others are noted as important when they have had left their mark, but may not have been originators of a perspective or idea. This book is thoughtfully put together to help instructors assemble a meaningful reading list or to plot a course through literature so that children will be able to appreciate the progression of literature and philosophy and cultural and literary references. It is presented with alternative formats for formal learning or self-guided forays into the field, as well as book club reviews. No matter your interest level, this book should not be read without paper and pencil at hand to recreate your reading list in case there are some works which you may have missed on your own. This is a fun and highly informative exploration of the world of children's literature from Ancient Greece to the present day.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Always love a booklist. Not sure if I would actually use the literary program. Also I find the interest levels to be vague and possibly off. My preschooler loves some of the “lower grades” books. I know AO puts some of the “middle grade” books as elementary so this may be slightly skewed

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mary Flynn

    4.5 I really enjoyed her survey of children's literature, but had some disagreements with her on study and analysis 4.5 I really enjoyed her survey of children's literature, but had some disagreements with her on study and analysis

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christina

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kadence

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  17. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

  18. 4 out of 5

    Agatha Venters

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Z

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kim Bohac

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ruthann

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  23. 5 out of 5

    Beth Ruggiero

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eliza Romero

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kelsi Wilson

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

  27. 5 out of 5

    kait

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  30. 5 out of 5

    T.

  31. 4 out of 5

    Corinne Cordasco

  32. 5 out of 5

    Kaity

  33. 5 out of 5

    Katelin Gootee

  34. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

  35. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Van

  36. 5 out of 5

    Gina

  37. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Grimm Bowers

  38. 5 out of 5

    Mary Porter

  39. 4 out of 5

    Katie Knorr

  40. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  41. 4 out of 5

    Shanna

  42. 4 out of 5

    Caty

  43. 5 out of 5

    Alissa

  44. 4 out of 5

    Danielle K

  45. 5 out of 5

    Sara Suhler deepe

  46. 4 out of 5

    Kristyn Boyett

  47. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten Ovitt

  48. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

  49. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth (Enthralled by the Written Word)

  50. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  51. 4 out of 5

    Kerianne Noel

  52. 4 out of 5

    Stevie

  53. 5 out of 5

    Katie Moore

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