By PAT JONES
IN the world of makebelieve, seven is a sacred number. And when the child has attained seven years, whether or not he is the seventh son of a seventh son, he is atuned to the world of enchantment as never before and never again in this mystic 'age of reason'.
Grown-ups like Sara and Stephen Corrin took this for granted when they edited Stories for Seven Year Olds (Faber, 15s.). which includes favourites from Hans Andersen, Grimm, Kipling, and the prolific 'Traditional'.
Fairy stories are not what they used to be, and for a tale in the grand manner we must look to Jean lngelow who died in 1897. and her Mops' the Fairy (Dent. 12s. 6d.).
The reader gets value for money —everything that can happen does happen (including a touch of the horrific in the hest nursery-rhyme tradition) and young readers who have not yet given all their devotion to Dr. Who will love it.
E. Nesbit's The Enchanted Castle is a different kettle of fish. A child
of the Victorian age, Edith Nesbit eschewed fairies, and in their place are reality—and magic.
She painted her real settings and her real children, and then introduced the enchantment bit by bit, each step carefully rationalised till the sky was the limit as far as credibility is concerned. It has lost none of its charm. (Also a Dent 'Classic', 15s.).
A deceptive title is that of Mrs. Ewing's Loh-Lie-bytthe-Fire, for there are no hobgoblins in this. but instead a story, written by the children's Jane Austen, of Victorian country life, and what happened when two genteel and elderly North Country ladies, Miss Betty and Miss Kitty, lost a diamond and found. under a broom bush, an abandoned baby.
What an ear for language had Mrs. Ewing—what a sharp eye for human foibles. (Dent. 13s. 6d., and it also includes 'The Story of a Short Life).
The Black Gull of Corrie Lochan is a story by a contemporary author, Margaret MacAlpine. set in Scotland and giving us the latest news of the Wee Folk.
Certainly not fairies, the author insists, but certainly never human. Morag's father disappears one night when seeing to the sheep. and Morag herself finds the delicate lace 'changeling shawl' left on the blackthorn bush.
Muller's Legacy Library has four more titles: lively, well-produced books all of them. They are The Heroic Deeds of Beowulf by Gladys Schmitt (a blood-curdling tale still), Siobsid the Sailor by Nathaniel Benchley. Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp by Anne Terry White. and William Tell by Katharine Scherman.
Each author is retelling his or her own favourite story. and the books cost 9s. 6d. each.
What have John Randolph. Lady Mountbatten, and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson in common? An ancestor, Pocahontas the Indian princess, who was received at the Court of King James.
This sweet girl (it is said that noone who saw. her ever forgot her) is part of English and American history. and her story is retold for young readers by Kermit (loci!. with a profusion of gaily coloured pictures by Pearl Binder. (Anthony Blond. 15s.).
Part of early American history. is Skippaek School (World's Work, 12s. 6d.) by Marguerite de Angell. a tale of young Eli Shrewder and the life of the pioneer Mennonite settlement near Philadelphia.
Ways of life and speech may change. but small boys never do, and both are drawn with skill.
The Fen Frog, a novel of medieval Norfolk. can be well recommended (Ha mu,. 14s.). It's E. K. Seth-Smith is to children as Elizabeth Goudge is to adults.
The main characters are Philippa de Grys. her uncle the village chaplain (fighting a battle against local superstition) and 'Natterjack', a persecuted boy of the fens.
The Travelling People by Patrick 'Duggan is a tale of Noreen and Shawneen, whose parents are dead, and who trasel with Grandma and Grandad through the roads of 'Ireland.
Patrick Duggan, like many an Irishman before him, puts music into the English language. (Heinemann, 13s. 6d.).