NO KIND OF WRITING LODGES ITSELF so deeply in our memory, echoing there for the rest of our lives, as the books that we met in our childhood," wrote William Zinsser in 1990's Worlds of Childhood: The Art and Craft of Writing for Children. Baby boomers are proving his words true, judging from the extraordinary resurgence of such favorites as The Borrowers, Ballet Shoes and Freddy the Detective, novels that were popular in the `50s and `60s. They are reading them aloud to their seven- and eight-year-old children and looking on with satisfaction as their older kids read the enduring stories on their own.
Sometimes grownups who discovered these books as children are responsible for getting them back on the shelves today. Take Michael Stearns, who was launched into reading by Edward Eager's Half Magic, published in 1954. Stearns, now senior editor at Harcourt Children's Books, says he's thrilled to have reissued Eager's books, along with the Green Knowe series by L.M. Boston, P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins books, Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake and Mary Norton's The Borrowers. "Right now, our most popular `50s book is Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes, a sweet but sad story about a kidnapped dog," Stearns says. "It was pretty much a sleeper for the last ten years, but suddenly it's soared to the top of our baby boomer list."
With thousands of children's novels to choose from, it's not surprising that parents light up at the sight of a book they remember fondly. Martha Wellbaum of Berkeley, California, couldn't wait to read The Borrowers to her girls. …