Monday, July 4, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Hymns in Prose for Children

Week 25: A book by a female author

Hymns in Prose for Children
by: Mrs. Barbauld


I love the idea of this book ... or what I thought the idea was. I thought Mrs. Barbauld had taken hymns are turned them into prose so children would better understand them. Their only title is "Hymn I" "Hymn II" etc. Initially, I wondered what hymns she was prosifying (yeah I just made that up) and was perplexed why she didn't tell us. Then I realized these were "hymns" she composed in prose instead of song. Ok cool.

Except then, while some have the feel of hymns, others didn't. I was most of the way through the book when I realized a more accurate description of the collection would be "Essays on Man, God, and Nature." Some of theses "hymns" don't even mention God! And wax eloquent about why we form into villages. 

Honestly, the reading improved when I started thinking about them as the aforementioned essays instead of hymns. 

Now, this reader is more advanced than I expected. Honestly, I know some adults who would be left scratching their heads at some of the words, but I also know well rounded children who would be able to decipher meaning and expand their vocabulary from this reader.

As for the printing itself ... it feels cheap. A large part of that perception is because of the text boxes on random pages. It really looks like it was typed up in MS Word and some of the text boxes were accidentally left with black lines instead of that being changed to no color. Part of the other reason are the "breath taking" illustrations. 

Now, the illustrations obviously took talent, and they are beautiful. And beautifully old fashioned. But not breath taking. Given their obvious age, however, they definitely felt suited to a nice hardbound volume. The slick paperback was just the total wrong feel. I realize this is a reprint of a text over a hundred years old, but the authenticity factor was missing for me. I don't care for this printing of the work, but I do collect old readers and would LOVE having this in one of the original bindings.

3 stars

This review appears as a part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see other books in challenge, click here.

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