100 Best Books for Children ~ Scudder

Horace E. Scudder was the author of a series of 8 books known as the Bodley Books about a family’s travels. This series in addition to Scudder’s Book of Folk Stories makes up numbers 52–60 on The Hundred Best Books for Children list found in The Book-lover.

Horace Scudder was a late 17th century writer born into a large family. He was widely known as a storyteller, whether the stories be those for children or those for the adult readers of The Atlantic Monthly. He wrote one of the first publications of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen.

Horace Elisha Scudder (October 16, 1838 – January 11, 1902) was an American author and editor. He graduated from Boston Latin School in 1854 and from Williams College in 1858, taught school in New York City, and subsequently, returned to Boston and devoted himself to literary work.

Scudder is now best known for his children’s books. Perhaps his most popular work is The Children’s Book, a collection of literature, The Book of Fables, The Book of Folk Stories, Fables and Folk Stories, and The Book of Legends, suitable for the first four grades. He was the leading advocate of introducing litera­ture into the schools at a time when such advocacy was uphill work, and he edited a great number of literary classics for school use.

“Horace Scudder Papers,” Julian Edison Department of Special Collections, Washington University in St. Louis

The Bodley Books consist of 8 stories: 5 original (generally taking place about 1848–1852) and 3 in a later series having to do with the Bodley grandchildren. (Quotations are from the inside flaps of the books.)

1. Doings of the Bodley Family in Town and Country

This contains some of the doings of Nathan, Philippa, and Lucy Bodley, their father and mother, the hired man Martin, and Nathan’s Cousin Ned, upon their removal from Boston to Roxbury. It introduces, also, Nathan’s pig, the dog Neptune, Lucy’s kitten, Lucy’s doll, Mr. Bottom the horse, chickens, mice; it has stories told to the children by their parents, by Martin, and by each other. Martin’s brother Hen is referred to occasionally.

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2. The Bodleys Telling Stories

In this book Nathan’s cousin, Ned Adams, a young collegian, is shown as much of the time living with his cousins, and Nurse Young becomes a part of the family. The children are entertained with a good many stories, especially from American history; they have a Mother Goose party, and go on a journey to Cape Cod. Hen remains in the background.

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3. The Bodleys on Wheels

The family enter a carryall and drive, accompanied by Ned on horseback, along the coast of Massachusetts Bay from Boston to Gloucester, and thence, through Ipswich and Rowley, to Newburyport, and so home again. Their drive leads them through historic places and by-spots made famous in poetry and legend. On their arrival home they find Martin’s brother Hen in the barn, just back from a long voyage.

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4. The Bodleys Afoot

Hen entertains the children with yarns, and, Ned Adams suddenly appearing, it is proposed that he and Nathan should take a walk to New York. They set out by Dedham and the old road to Hartford, through Pomfret; but at Hartford, where they stay a few days with some old relatives, they are joined by Mrs. Bodley, Phippy, and Lucy, who go down the Connecticut River with them to Saybrook, and then go back to Boston, leaving the boys to continue their walk to New York. They are stopped, however, at New Haven, by a dispatch from Mr. Bodley, which brings them back at once by rail.

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5. Mr. Bodley Abroad

The reason of the dispatch is that Mr. Bodley is unexpectedly called to Europe, and in this final volume of the series he goes abroad, while the rest of the family at first go for a fortnight to Cape Cod, and then return to Roxbury. Mr. Bodley does not return till Thanksgiving time, but he writes letters home, and, after he returns, tells stories of Europe. The children, besides, have their own journeys and adventures, so that Europe and America appear in equal proportions. Mrs. Bodley, who stays at home, has been to Europe before, so that she is able to enlarge on what Mr. Bodley writes home, and Hen, who has gone off on a voyage, stumbles upon Mr. Bodley abroad, and comes back before him with fresh yarns.

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It was intimated at the close of Mr. Bodley Abroad that the children might themselves go to Europe when they had grown up. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that thirty years after the days when they were Bodley children they had children of their own, and that a new series of adventures and stories have begun. Nathan and Phippy Bodley, having married a sister and brother, are now the heads of families themselves, and a new career opens ….

6. The Bodley Grandchildren and Their Journey in Holland

In this volume the two families, with the grandchildren, start from New York, after first making themselves acquainted with the doings of their Dutch ancestors there in the days of New Amsterdam, and spend several weeks in Holland, seeing sights, taking an object lesson in history, and especially making the connection between American history and Dutch history. They are Americans visiting Europe not merely for the pleasure of travel, but for the purpose of tracing back the footprints of their ancestors.

The time of the story is the summer of 1881.

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7. The English Bodley Family

After a summer spent in Holland, the grandchildren and their parents go to England with their appetite whetted for new feasts in historic fields. By a singular chance they fall in with an English family bearing the name of Bodley. Their long-lost ancestors have been found, and the descendants of these ancestors, though very distant cousins, prove to be hospitable and friendly. The autumn is spent in historic pilgrimages, and the connection between English and American life, as discovered by youngsters of both nations, gives an international character to the story.

The time is the summer and autumn of 1881.

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8. The Viking Bodleys

The family party, with the exception of their Cousin Ned, after a winter spent in Italy, return to England and cross the North Sea to Christiania. They go as far north in Norway as anybody can go, and then return after having done their best to discover their Viking ancestors among the fjords of Norway. From Christiania they go to Copenhagen, visit the haunts of Andersen and enjoy Denmark. They have now, after seeing Scandinavia, got at the earliest European life which was connected with America, and they return home, never again to set forth on their rambling journeys. This is the last of the Bodleys.

The time is the summer of 1882.

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  • The stories were referred to as “travelogues” in their day. Find the locations referred to on a map.
  • What do these places look like today? See if you can find out.
  • Narrate one or two of the tales.
  • Pick a place to learn more about. Write your findings down and illustrate them on Drawing and Writing paper.
  • Create an author page for Horace E. Scudder (along with the other authors in our series).

The Book of Folk Stories is found farther down on Baldwin’s list. We’ll include it here to keep authors’ works together.

This book followed Scudder’s The Book of Fables and was one of the ways he sought to bring literature into the schools as a part of a child’s education.

The fable is oriental, and it is antique. It is also exceedingly current and universal as a coin of speech. The man and the boy both use it, and while in its full form it seems most capable of giving pleasure to the child, its conventionalism enables the mature mind to accept it without any sense of condescension to childish things. It is the most perfect literary instrument of association between the young and the old, and becomes, therefore, by right the first possession of children in literature.

Scudder rewrote the tales to be accessible to children of a younger age “when they are most capable of enjoying them.”

This book includes 15 tales, most of which will be familiar.

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Additional Resources

The Children’s Book
Vast array of fables, fairy tales, poetry, and other writings as mentioned in the above quote.

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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