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[407] books written to appeal to them. Parents and guardians, so important in English books, figure very little. In the most popular books, boys and girls are thrown on the world or leave home to seek their fortunes or have adult responsibilities. The reforming child was an American creation and persevered in America some time after she had been happily throttled in England; and her strenuosity was even more offensive because of the lack of grown — up authority. American book-children are always the king-pins of their households as well as of their stories, and often their sagacious ability is thrown into relief by weak-minded parents. Miss Alcott recorded that innumerable letters from her child admirers forced her to provide a wedding for her first heroine. It cannot be denied that all this reflects the attitude of American life. Also, one may gather from children's stories—with less misgiving—that the United States evinced in the first half of the century more interest in education than did any other country and in the second half more interest in the analytic study of child-life by reason of an earlier appropriation of the kindergarten theory. On account of this interest, the moral and the educational as leading features were suppressed sooner. As the growing psychological study of the child demanded that his initiative be unhampered by patterns, so his pranks began to be recorded, as more personal (as well as more interesting) than his good behaviour. Finally, it may be said that because of this kindergarten impulse more conscientious, intelligent work has been done in American writing for children than has been the case elsewhere.

But in one way, equally characteristic of the American temperament and American adult literature, children's writers have lagged behind the European world. In the domain of pure fancy very little has been accomplished. As the century entered its closing decades protests were heard against the prevailing realism, and appeals for the restoration of those idealistic qualities which enkindle the child's imagination elsewhere. In fairy tales, Frank R. Stockton1 stands almost alone in having done any considerable quantity of work possessing literary value. The wise humorous style of his fanciful tales and their grotesque droll material make them exceptional.

1 See also Book III, Chaps. VI and XI.

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