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A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys (Everyman's Library Children's Classics) Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0679436430 ISBN-10: 067943643X Edition: 1994 Printing

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 and up
  • Grade Level: 4 and up
  • Series: Everyman's Library Children's Classics
  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library; 1994 Printing edition (September 27, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067943643X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679436430
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and made his ambition to be a writer while still a teenager. He graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine, where the poet Longfellow was also a student, and spent several years travelling in New England and writing short stories before his best-known novel The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850. His writing was not at first financially rewarding and he worked as measurer and surveyor in the Boston and Salem Custom Houses. In 1853 he was sent to Liverpool as American consul and then lived in Italy before returning to the US in 1860, where he died in his sleep four years later.His interest in Greek mythology led him to suggest to Longfellow in 1838 that they collaborate on a story for children based on the legend of Pandora's Box, but this never materialized. He wrote A Wonder-Book between April and July 1851, adapting six legends most freely from Charles Anton's A Classical Dictionary (1842). He set out deliberately to 'modernize' the stories, freeing them from what he called 'cold moonshine' and using a romantic, readable style that was criticized by adults but proved universally popular with children.Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) was born in south London, the fourth of twelve children. He worked as an office clerk before becoming a full-time illustrator in 1893. His reputation was established with the publication of his illustrations to the Grimm fairy tales in 1900. Thereafter some ninety books appeared with his distinctive pictures, including A Wonder Book in 1922.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

A Wonder Book For Girls and Boys
The Gorgon's Head
TANGLEWOOD PORCH
INTRODUCTORY TO "THE GORGON'S HEAD"
Beneath the porch of the country-seat called Tanglewood, one fine autumnal morning, was assembled a merry party of little folks, with a tall youth in the midst of them. They had planned a nutting expedition, and were impatiently waiting for the mists to roll up the hill-slopes, and for the sun to pour the warmth of the Indian summer over the fields and pastures, and into the nooks of the many-colored woods. There was a prospect of as fine a day as ever gladdened the aspect of this beautiful and comfortable world. As yet, however, the morning mist filled up the whole length and breadth of the valley, above which, on a gently sloping eminence, the mansion stood.
This body of white vapor extended to within less than a hundred yards of the house. It completely hid everything beyond that distance, except a few ruddy or yellow tree-tops, which here and there emerged, and were glorified by the early sunshine, as was likewise the broad surface of the mist. Four or five miles off to the southward rose thesummit of Monument Mountain, and seemed to be floating on a cloud. Some fifteen miles farther away, in the same direction, appeared the loftier Dome of Taconic, looking blue and indistinct, and hardly so substantial as the vapory sea that almost rolled over it. The nearer hills, which bordered the valley, were half submerged, and were specked with little cloud-wreaths all the way to their tops. On the whole, there was so much cloud, and so little solid earth, that it had the effect of a vision.
The children above-mentioned, being as full of life as they could hold, kept overflowing from the porch of Tanglewood, and scampering along the gravel-walk, or rushing across the dewy herbage of the lawn. I can hardly tell how many of these small people there were; not less than nine or ten, however, nor more than a dozen, of all sorts, sizes, and ages, whether girls or boys. They were brothers, sisters, and cousins, together with a few of their young acquaintances, who had been invited by Mr. and Mrs. Pringle to spend some of this delightful weather with their own children, at Tanglewood. I am afraid to tell you their names, or even to give them any names which other children have ever been called by; because, to my certain knowledge, authors sometimes get themselves into great trouble by accidentally giving the names of real persons to the characters in their books. For this reason, I mean to call them Primrose, Periwinkle, Sweet Fern, Dandelion, Blue Eye, Clover, Huckleberry, Cowslip, Squash-Blossom, Milkweed, Plantain, and Buttercup; although, to be sure, such titles might better suit a group of fairies than a company of earthly children.
It is not to be supposed that these little folks were to be permitted by their careful fathers and mothers, uncles, aunts, or grandparents, to stray abroad into the woods and fields, without the guardianship of some particularly grave and elderly person. Oh no, indeed! In the first sentence of my book, you will recollect that I spoke of a tall youth, standing in the midst of the children. His name--(and Ishall let you know his real name, because he considers it a great honor to have told the stories that are here to be printed)--his name was Eustace Bright. He was a student at Williams College, and had reached, I think, at this period, the venerable age of eighteen years; so that he felt quite like a grandfather towards Periwinkle, Dandelion, Huckleberry, Squash-Blossom, Milkweed, and the rest, who were only half or a third as venerable as he. A trouble in his eyesight (such as many students think it necessary to have, nowadays, in order to prove their diligence at their books) had kept him from college a week or two after the beginning of the term. But, for my part, I have seldom met with a pair of eyes that looked as if they could see farther or better than those of Eustace Bright.
This learned student was slender, and rather pale, as all Yankee students are; but yet of a healthy aspect, and as light and active as if he had wings to his shoes. By the by, being much addicted to wading through streamlets and across meadows, he had put on cowhide boots for the expedition. He wore a linen blouse, a cloth cap, and a pair of green spectacles, which he had assumed, probably, less for the preservation of his eyes than for the dignity that they imparted to his countenance. In either case, however, he might as well have let them alone; for Huckleberry, a mischievous little elf, crept behind Eustace as he sat on the steps of the porch, snatched the spectacles from his nose, and clapped them on her own; and as the student forgot to take them back, they fell off into the grass, and lay there till the next spring.
Now, Eustace Bright, you must know, had won great fame among the children, as a narrator of wonderful stories; and though he sometimes pretended to be annoyed, when they teased him for more, and more, and always for more, yet I really doubt whether he liked anything quite so well as to tell them. You might have seen his eyes twinkle, therefore, when Clover, Sweet Fern, Cowslip, Buttercup,and most of their playmates, besought him to relate one of his stories, while they were waiting for the mist to clear up.
"Yes, Cousin Eustace," said Primrose, who was a bright girl of twelve, with laughing eyes, and a nose that turned up a little, "the morning is certainly the best time for the stories with which you so often tire out our patience. We shall be in less danger of hurting your feelings, by falling asleep at the most interesting points,--as little Cowslip and I did last night!"
"Naughty Primrose," cried Cowslip, a child of six years old; "I did not fall asleep, and I only shut my eyes, so as to see a picture of what Cousin Eustace was telling about. His stories are good to hear at night, because we can dream about them asleep; and good in the morning, too, because then we can dream about them awake. So I hope he will tell us one this very minute."
"Thank you, my little Cowslip," said Eustace; "certainly you shall have the best story I can think of, if it were only for defending me so well from that naughty Primrose. But, children, I have already told you so many fairy tales, that I doubt whether there is a single one which you have not heard at least twice over. I am afraid you will fall asleep in reality, if I repeat any of them again."
"No, no, no!" cried Blue Eye, Periwinkle, Plantain, and half a dozen others. "We like a story all the better for having heard it two or three times before."
And it is a truth, as regards children, that a story seems often to deepen its mark in their interest, not merely by two or three, but by numberless repetitions. But Eustace Bright, in the exuberance of his resources, scorned to avail himself of an advantage which an older story-teller would have been glad to grasp at.
"It would be a great pity," said he, "if a man of my learning (to say nothing of original fancy) could not find a new story every day, year in and year out, for childrensuch as you. I will tell you one of the nursery tales that were made for the amusement of our great old grandmother, the Earth, when she was a child in frock and pinafore. There are a hundred such; and it is a wonder to me that they have not long ago been put into picture-books for little girls and boys. But, instead of that, old gray-bearded grandsires pore over them in musty volumes of Greek, and puzzle themselves with trying to find out when, and how, and for what they were made."
"Well, well, well, well, Cousin Eustace!" cried all the children at once; "talk no more about your stories, but begin."
"Sit down, then, every soul of you," said Eustace Bright, "and be all as still as so many mice. At the slightest interruption, whether from great, naughty Primrose, little Dandelion, or any other, I shall bite the story short off between my teeth, and swallow the untold part. But, in the first place, do any of you know what a Gorgon is?"
"I do," said Primrose.
"Then hold your tongue!" rejoined Eustace, who had rather she would have known nothing about the matter. "Hold all your tongues, and I shall tell you a sweet pretty story of a Gorgon's head."
And so he did, as you may begin to read on the next page. Working up his sophomorical erudition with a good deal of tact, and incurring great obligations to Professor Anthon, he, nevertheless, disregarded all classical authorities, whenever the vagrant audacity of his imagination impelled him to do so.
All new material copyright © 1998 by Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I read these stories to 4 of my grandchildren who rage in age from 6 to 8 years old.
L. Fuglevand
Hawthorne's gentle, charming collection of classic myths retold for the children of his day is a neglected classic.
William Timothy Lukeman
This book has stories of Greek Mythology told with the most beautiful use of language.
tanyainidaho

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By William Timothy Lukeman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Hawthorne's gentle, charming collection of classic myths retold for the children of his day is a neglected classic. Addressing the reader in personable Victorian fashion, his prose is clear and beautiful. Consider this sample:
"Within the verge of the wood there were columbines, looking more pale than red, because they were so modest, and had thought proper to seclude themselves too anxiously from the sun. There were wild geraniums, too, and a thousand white blossoms of the strawberry. The trailing arbutus was not yet quite out of bloom; but it hid its precious flowers under the last year's withered forest-leaves, as carefully as a mother-bird hides its little young ones."
But Hawthorne is also equal to the task of less genteel, more vigorous images:
"At this sound the three heads reared themselves erect, and belched out great flashes of flame. Before Bellerophon had time to consider what to do next, the monster flung itself out of the cavern and sprung straight toward him, with its immense claws extended, and its snaky tail twisting itself venomously behind."
Adding to the pleasure of these retold tales is the gorgeous art of Arthur Rackham, both in black-and-white drawings and full-color plates, which captures the unearthly beauty and the unexpectedly surprising humor of Hawthorne's work. Highly recommended!
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Michele L. Worley on April 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Once upon a time (I was about 8), a family friend handed down his Collier's Junior Classic series to me - each volume is a glorious hodgepodge of short stories from here, there, and everywhere. I got to be very fond of Greek mythology, especially "The Chimaera" and "The Miraculous Pitcher", since the Collier retellings of their respective legends were much more lively than the ordinary.
Alas, I forgot the name of the author of "The Chimaera", and even that my favourite versions of the myths were all written by the same person. Some talented guy writing for the series, no doubt, I would have said, if I'd thought about it. A couple of years ago, I started browsing through an impressive-looking illustrated volume of mythology in a bookstore (which you now see before you). Whoa. "Scarlet Letter" Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote *THESE*?
His retellings of Greek myths were originally spread over 2 volumes (the other being _Tanglewood Tales_), but they can be obtained in a single volume these days. I can personally do without the gang of Tanglewood kids providing the official audience for the stories-within-a-story, or the defense against critics put into the mouth of the storyteller Eustace Bright, but then I want more space for more myths. :) Each myth in _A Wonder Book_ has an Introductory and After the Story section where the storyteller leads up to the tale, then fends off any awkward questions from his young audience.
"The Gorgon's Head" - The story of Perseus, from his infancy through the quest for Medusa's head.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on September 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In the spring of 1851 Hawthorne wrote to his publisher, James Fields (of the renowned Ticknor and Fields), proposing a children's book retelling six well-known stories from Greek mythology. He planned to adopt "a tone in some degree Gothic or romantic." In addition, he wanted to make the fables suitable for young Christian children: "of course, I shall purge all the old heathen wickedness, and put in a moral wherever practicable."

I am usually not a fan of sanitized tales--even when written by someone the status of Nathaniel Hawthorne. But, in spite of their overt preachiness and their occasional preciousness, there's something charming and original about these adaptations. Even adults might enjoy these six tales: Perseus's slaughter of Medusa, Midas and his golden touch, Pandora's box (stripped of Prometheus's role), the apples of the Hesperides (or Hercules's Eleventh Labor), Baucis and Philemon and the magic pitcher (which, in my opinion, is the best of the lot), and Bellerophon and Pegasus's battle with the monster Chimaera.

Threading these stories together is Eustace Bright, Hawthorne's college-age narrator, who relates his versions to a gaggle of local children (a couple of whom taunt him for his bumptiousness). Hawthorne uses this framing device to insert himself as his own critic. Overhearing one of the stories, the father of one of the children is not amused, finding Eustace's taste "altogether Gothic" and advising him "never more to meddle with a classical myth." To this critique, Eustace petulantly responds that "an old Greek had no more right to them, than a modern Yankee has," and he accuses classical writers of forming these tales "into shapes of indestructible beauty, indeed, but cold and heartless.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Colleen R. Yeany on January 17, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
One day last week, I could not, even after hours of deliberation (the snow had made engagements scarce), decide what book to read next. I finally came upon this little volume on the end of my parent's bookshelf and decided to give it try. How could I have known what charms were in store? I felt like a little girl again, and as Eustace Bright, the ambitious college student who narrates these tales, held his little auditors in awe, my eyes, too, were wide with wonder. It truly is a "wonder book," full of high fantasy, thrilling action, and the inimitable imagery of a master. Though geared towards "boys and girls," Hawthorne explains in his introduction that "children possess an unestimated sensibility to whatever is deep or high, in imagination or feeling, so long as it is simple . . . It is only the artificial and complex that bewilder them." Indeed; the book hardly condescends, and so will gently stretch the middle-grader's vocabulary. But readers -- or listeners -- of all ages will delight in this collection of tales, for I was equally, if not more, entertained by the introductories and postludes to each story, which relate the antics and dialogue of Eustace and the little children he entertains. These interludes also expand the stories by slipping in commentary and interpretation.
Don't pass this one by; it will truly win your heart, whoever you may be!
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