(Click thumbnails for enlargement) Last week my wife's mother gave us the book collection she had as a child. It's called My Book House and was published in 1937. There are 12 volumes in the set, and I love looking at the illustrations and reading the stories to my 3-year-old daughter. So far, our favorite story is called "Across the Fields," by Anatole France and illustrated by M.S. Hurford. I've posted the last two pages from the four-page story here, because they are so wonderful.
Catherine and Jack climb up above the fields on the slope of the hill where they can see all the fires of the village. It is a place which makes you realize how great the world is.
"Let's sit down here," says Catherine.
She seats herself, and, spreading her hands, scatters her flowery harvest round her. Her little body has been perfumed with them all, and in a moment the butterflies are circling round her. She picks and arranges the flowers, and make garlands and crowns of them, and hangs little bells at her ears for earrings. Little Jack catches sight of her thus, and at once is seized with admiration. He stops, and the whip falls from his hands. He sees that she is beautiful. He would like to be beautiful, too, and covered with flowers.
"I'll make you a crown," cries Catherine, "and you will look like a king." She puts the crown of flowers on little Jack's head, and he turns red with joy. She puts her arms around him, lifts him off the ground and stands him, all covered with flowers, on a great stone near by. She admires him because he is beautiful, and it is she that has made him so.
Little Jack understands that he is beautiful and the idea gives him a deep respect for himself. Stiff, immovable, his eyes round, his lips shut tight, his hands open and his fingers sticking out like the spokes of a wheel, he tastes a solemn joy. The sky is over his head, woods and fields are at his feet. He is in the middle of the world. He is only good, only beautiful.