An Homage to Childcraft

Today, my eyes fell on my bookshelf, and the only set of books I still have from when I was a child: "Barnens Bästa", or, as they are known in the US, "The Childcraft books". They were published by Field Enterprises in Chicago from the late 40´s and my edition is adapted to Swedish and published in the early 60´s. There are fifteen volumes: 1. Poems of early childhood, 2. Storytelling and other poems, 3. Folk and fairy tales, 4. Animal friends and adventures, 5. Life in many lands, 6. Great men and famous deeds, 7. Exploring the world around us, 8. Creative play and hobbies, 9. Science and industry, 10. Art for children, 11. Music for the family, 12. You and your family, 13. Your young child, 14. Your child goes to school, 15. Your child in today´s world.

The first book is in shreds, most of it contained in a plastic folder. And, leafing through it, there isn´t much that I really remember about it. But clearly, I have played with it. I like to think this is the toy that made me comfortable with books.

The second book is also well read, but these stories and illustrations I do remember. The illustrations more than the stories, actually, so I imagine these were read to me while I was looking at the pictures. There is a lot of information about the world already snuck in these stories, and some moralities, too.

I don´t mind moralities, I happen to think these are great. If you can teach children that science is about progress for the betterment of everyones lives, that everyone should be friends with everyone no matter their skin colour or language or other preferences, that can not be a bad thing. Stories where the bad guy gets his ass whipped have always had a strong attraction on me, as well. I suppose I was the kind of child who´d rather play alone, and other children and their games were mostly in the way. I would sit in my room in the afternoons, liberated from a tough day at school, totally identifying with stories about famous inventors as children, doing experiments grownups don´t understand. At heart, I´m still convinced I would have been a great man doing great deeds if I had only been left alone...

The illustrations are wonderful, and made by many different artists in many different styles. I find that I still loose track of time when I look at them.

The Moon is a Griffin Egg.

Peter Rabbit

The Emperor´s new clothes.


Snow White and Rosy Red, who saved the Prince, then married him, and his brother.
George Washington Carver, with a book. Total identification!

I see now that volume four and five are not much read, and they don´t ring many bells either, as I leaf through them. Animal friends and life in many lands seems not to have appealed to me as much as great men and famous deeds and exploring the world around me. When I look in those well-read volumes, I realize that I pretty much everything I know comes from these books. Anything I have later learned, has somehow been attached to these first images.

The last few books were perhaps not as influential. By the time I was that age, I had moved on to other kinds of literature. They are also a bit more about growing up, and that probably didn´t appeal to me, not in the way of the 50´s and early 60´s, anyway. Times had changed, I suppose.

Thomas Alva Edison failing creatively. This almost happened in real life.

Did I mention my grandpa was a goalie, too? A real hero.

The seed of my devotion to Time Team. (And perhaps why I think archeology is so sexy.)

I still have a good grasp of what is moving in the sky.

And of course I did all these experiments.

And when I look at volumes 8-11, I laugh and think that in so many ways, I am still a Childcrafter! Here it all is, the basic instructions to all the things I still do, and the way I do them. My grandmother once reflected that I don´t do things like she did and like my mother did - the explanation is, I learned everything from Childcraft, even cooking!

How to write a story. I do this every day. Sit and stare at the wall, that is...

A whole book in the series is devoted to different types of art. 

The Bayeaux tapestry, depicting the Normand invasion of Britain.

Seeing this totally cracked me up, because...

...the last week or so, I have been working on this.

If I ever really do become a great man doing great deeds, and someone asks me to write my memoirs, I shall structure them just like the Childcraft series. That way, I think they will become most true to the way I´m really thinking.

Yeah, I see what I just wrote. My memoirs will be about the way I´m thinking. Of course.


  1. This was so lovely! Being able to take a look back and go, 'Yeah, that really did have an impact on my life!' is so priceless. This actually reminds me of something I posted a long time ago on a blog that nobody reads... let me see if I can find it..


    1. I´m happy you enjoyed! And thank you for directing me to your other blog - had no idea it was there. Will explore. Seems full of good stuff.

  2. childcraft books! i still have mine, too! i have the orange-bound set i had when i was little and the more recent edition my kids had. i spent so many happy hours with the folk and fairy tales and nursery rhyme books. i'll have to get mine down out of the attic and write a post about them. some of your pictures look very familiar.

    1. You are the first person I ever encountered who had these as well! I saw the whole set once in a second-hand bookstore, it was in much better condition than mine... I think they are much wider spread in the US. In Sweden later editions only seem to comprise the first 10 books.

    2. they used to be more common than now. my husband says there was a set in every classroom at his elementary (grades 1-6) school. the newer set we got for our kids didn't have those last 2 over-sized volumes. my old set has orange covers, while the newer set (i forget what year) has white covers. i love them both.