100 Best Books for Children ~ Aikin

Evenings at Home is a collection of children’s stories by John Aikin and his sister and number 51 on The Hundred Best Books for Children list found in The Book-lover.

Subtitled The Juvenile Budget Opened, the book is an example of late Victorian children’s literature, containing 98 stories. During its day, this book was on the shelf of nearly every family. The original stories were written during the years 1792–1795 and were contained in six volumes.

The tales cover nature, geography, fables, history, and other common everyday topics. Perhaps similar in some ways to a children’s encyclopedia such as The Book of Knowledge, Evenings at Home conveys information by telling stories.

Fifteen editions in England, and probably an equal or greater number in this country, have already borne testimony in that behalf, much stronger than any praises which they can bestow. Yet they may be permitted briefly to suggest a comparison between this charming specimen of the good old school, and most of the illustrated works that have recently been brought out in such profusion, professedly for the entertainment and instruction of youth; works, in the majority of which there is exhibited so little of that peculiar talent required for imparting instruction with entertainment, and so little judgment in the choice of subjects, as well as in the manner of dealing with them. The great defect of these books—at least the greater portion of them—is the total want of pure and unaffected simplicity; the principal characteristic of well-trained youth, and therefore indispensable in everything designed for youthful readers.

Evenings at Home (Preface)

John Aikin was a doctor who later in life began writing biographies and periodicals. His sister contributed to this series. Later, his daughter Lucy Aikin also became a writer of some reputation.

This edition has been edited by John Aikin’s son, Dr. Arthur Aikin.

The nearest approach to perfection that a book written for young people can make, is to give the idea of having been written by one of them. When a child reads a story, and fancies that he could write just such another, we may be sure that the author has hit the mark. This test of excellence the “Evenings at Home” bears with a success unrivalled, as must be within the experience of many parents. There is scarcely another book ever placed in the hands of children, from the age of four or five years to that of twelve or fourteen, which they read with so much delight, or remember so long and well, or by which they are so strongly incited to the attempt at composition.

One of the stories, “Eyes and No Eyes,” was commented on by Oliver Wendell Holmes:

I have never seen anything of the kind half so good. I advise you, if you are a child anywhere under forty-five, and do not yet wear glasses, to send at once for “Evenings at Home,” and read that story. For myself I am always grateful to the writer of it for calling my attention to common things.

Eyes and No Eyes and Other Stories
  • The stories are perfect for narrations. If oral/written narrations become monotonous, try one of these 30 Narration Ideas.
  • There are enough stories to read two or three aloud each week. The other days can be used for copywork, narration, illustration, or investigation.
  • Pick a topic of interest to investigate further.
  • Some of the tales describe a process (manufacturing or the way the earth moves around the sun, for example). Create a flowchart for the process.
  • Create an author page for John Aikin (along with the other authors in our series).

Free eBook

Additional Resources

Author Notebooking Pages {Free Download}
Use this free set to create an author notebook for our 100 Best Books for Children series.

The Hundred Best Books for Children ~ Introduction
The Hundred Best Books for Children

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