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By Noel Perrin

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Concepcion comes from Guatemala, and at first she seems totally weird, but later she becomes Kate's best friend. That sort of thing. There's more still. The parents may be thinking about literature, not life. They may want their child to have some sense of what good writing is. They then carefully avoid all the Nancy Drews and mutant turtle books. If it's mutation, they think of Pinocchio, or Arthur in The Once and Future King. If girl detectivesbut they don't think about girl detectives. They think about Jo March and Mary Poppins and, not yet a Wilder, Miss Laura Ingalls.

Though alive and conscious, they are rarely able to move unless picked up by a child. What they want is to be loved. And held, and played with, and given things. Pretty much the same treatment children want from their parents. Rumer Godden usually writes better for adults, I think, than she does for children. Her doll books and her mouse books tend to be easily sentimental, and some of the later ones have a far worse fault: They are written to formula. Even Impunity Janeabout an adventurous doll who hates being stuck in a dollhouse and longs to roam the world in a child's pocket (and after almost a hundred years of waiting, achieves that in the pocket of a small boy named Gabriel)even that seems to me a bit too pat.

Nesbit, The Phoenix and the Carpet. "E. Nesbit? You really think she's obscure enough? I don't. Anyway, we ran a piece about her just a couple of years ago. " So it went. In the end I wrote down the titles of seventeen books. He accepted nine and rejected eight. The problem was never that he didn't think a book good enough; it was always that he considered it too famous, too obvious, too predictable a choice. Why run a piece recommending a book everyone knows already? That night, on the train going home to Vermont, I naturally told my wife about the lunch and the list.

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