Book of Short Stories: Fifth Grade Ruminations from 1931

Buz Carter e-mailed me a few weeks ago:

"Oh, got back from Kansas last night and among my treasures, beneath my 4th grade Antioch Elementary baseball jersey and pound of Laura Little’s assorted fudge delights I have a small-run book from February 18, 1931 — a collection of short stories by fifth graders published by an upstate New York school district. Every one a gem. I’m quite tempted to make a website."

The book came by way of his sister, from a deceased father-in-law. And now here is the website:

Photo of the Book of Short Stories opened to a story. Its pages are well worn.

The 86 stories average 100 words each, some on identical subjects, such as paintings or book reviews. The ones that really shine are where the kids were allowed to write about any topic.

Follow this link for Buz’s eloquent summary about the world in which these stories were written.

Here is the story Buz shared via e-mail that day, perhaps the best of the bunch:

A Beautiful Sight
Helen Friedman

One drowsy day as I sat looking out of the window I beheld a beautiful sight. Up in a tree I saw a mother robin and some tiny babies. The little infants were cuddled closely to their mother with their beaks open. The mother was very excited because she had a large worm in her mouth. The sight looked so beautiful against the blossoms that I forgot to do my work. That day I even petted the cat whom I dread.

Helen Friedman
School No. 41

Here are my favorite reads (in no particular order):

  1. A Beautiful Sight — The aforementioned charming observation of a bird.
  2. Our Safety Club — Persuasive argument for you to join.
  3. Flax — A 1931 first-person dream of recycling.
  4. The Vikings — I was only taught about Christopher Columbus, yet 77 years ago kids knew the truth about Vinland?
  5. Friends Again — They had been "worst enemies."
  6. Pretending — "I am an arithmetic book. Some boys and girls do not like me."
  7. A Day at the Park — This girl really puts me in that park.
  8. Three Pals — A keen observation about making a better camping trip.
  9. Kit Kat — I love reading a brief moment in a child’s life captured in a story.
  10. The Hike in the Woods — Classic ending.
  11. Riding on a Cloud — Dreamy tale of visiting Santa Claus, reminiscent of Becka Goes to the North Pole.
  12. A Fishing Trip — Unfortunate circumstances turn out okay in the end.
  13. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer — A normal book review, but it’s just like the Lifelong Literacy public service announcements airing on America radio stations.
  14. A Prize Winner — I’m still fascinated by moments captured in time, this one a front yard Christmas scene.
  15. Little Owl Golf Course — Do-it-yourself miniature golf course.

Buz believes this book hails from Buffalo, New York circa 1931. If you know, or think you know, anyone who was an author in the book, you are encouraged to share your thoughts and remembrances. It would be great to learn how life unfolded for these kids (your grandparents?).


2 Responses to “Book of Short Stories: Fifth Grade Ruminations from 1931”

  1. anjii says:

    I LOVE these stories! When I was young, and already fully infatuated with reading, my grandparents picked up a book for me, (25 cents at a used bookstore in Winnipeg), which was published in Great Britain in 1934. They bought it, because it was called “The Taming of Angela and other stories of school life and adventure” and my name is actually Angela. It quickly became one of my absolute favorites, in part because it had an old English charm to the writings (a collection by various female authors), and because the stories were about girls my age, or a bit older, but in a totally different world, but also very much because of it’s age. I felt like I was living in another time everytime I read it. Ever since, I’ve been extra enchanted by old books, and have built up quite a collection, taking up 2 shelves on one of my bookshelves! I wish I could find a copy of this one to add to it.

    September 19th, 2008 at 6:55 pm

  2. CallMeKelly says:

    I think it is fantastic. My son loves hearing other kids stories, I think it makes complete sense. I personally prefer stories written by and for grown-ups, why wouldn’t a young child be enthused by something written closer to his age? Thanks so much for posting on this, I plan to read some to my kids today.

    September 21st, 2008 at 12:04 pm

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