IPT Book Reviews

Title: Childhood and Children: A Compendium of Customs, Superstitions, Theories, Profiles, and Facts
Author: Joan Bel Geddes
Publisher: Oryx Press, 1997

Oryx Press
4041 N. Central Ave. Suite 700
Phoenix, AZ 85012-3397
(800) 279-6799
$69.95 (c)

A compendium is a summary. This book is a fascinating summary of what has been thought, said, and done about, to, and by children across most of history. There is not a page that does not contain some new, little-known, but important piece of information about children and childhood. The book informs, surprises, sometimes shocks, entertains, and engages. It may be a boon to trivia seekers but also a blessing to scholars. It ranges from sparkling humor to pathos and dismay. There is simply no way that anyone who is concerned about and interested in children can fail to benefit from having this book.

There 16 chapters, a bibliography, and an index in 668 pages. From the first chapter, History of Childhood, to the last, Children and the Future, there are quotations, summaries of ideas and thoughts, and fascinating information about children. The chapter on children's toys tells how the classic Greek Corinthian column came to be related to a dead child's toys, gives the history of Teddy Bears, tells how Yoyos originated in ancient China, informs us that dolls' history is as long as children's history, and much, much more. The chapter on children and literature, among many little-known facts, tells us who the real Mother Goose is, gives thumb nail sketches of several centuries of authors of children's books, and identifies child literary prodigies. The chapter on children of peace and war illuminates the tragic impact of war on children but also shows their courage and resilience.

There are chapters on children and folklore, childbirth and infants, health care, development, family life, child rearing, games and sports, art and music, entertainment and arts, poverty and violence, and advocates for children. The material is not a rehash nor rearrangement of familiar information, It is rather a fresh collection of little-known information put together in an invigorating and delightful fashion. Much of it is like the new way to do history, that is, to look at the mundane but revealing artifacts of daily life like grocery lists, testaments, and bills of sale. This yields a surprisingly rich and complex understanding of the area and time of interest.

It would be hard to match the breadth, depth, scope, and wisdom about children contained in this book. Anyone who can read fascinating material in short bites and likes a book to pick up and read at random knowing there will be something interesting within a minute, should own this book.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

Order this book: Paperback

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