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The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

I’ve noted that the Alice books were the absolute favorites of my childhood, bar none.  Later on, I wrote about how Kipling’s Jungle Books were number two.  I got to thinking about Robin Hood for some unrelated reason recently, and I immediately recalled the number three book of my childhood canon:  Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire.  I don’t recall exactly, but I must have encountered it a little after I first read the Alice books and around about the same time–or perhaps slightly earlier–that I read The Jungle Book.  What I do remember is that my favorite uncle got me several books in the Children’s Illustrated Classics series by J M Dent & Sons Ltd around about 1974 or 1975.  One was The Heroes, by Charles Kingsley, one an edition of the Arabian Nights, and the third Pyle’s Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.

This series, fiendishly difficult to find today, were hardcover books about eight by twelve inches.  They had the original text of the works in question along with line drawing illustrations.  Two especially nice features of the books were that definitions of words that might be hard for children were given in the margins of the pages, so that you could figure them out as you read without needing to ask a parent or consult a dictionary; and second, that there were appendices that discussed the historical background of the books and the authors.  You couldn’t really have a better series for budding readers, and I regret that the series seems to be long out of print.

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