In her preface, co-editor Samelson says this book was created "for 'the fun of it,' and came into being as a way of celebrating the spirit of childhood." Missions accomplished.
The quotations about children and childhood that Samelson and Handley have amassed are enjoyable to browse through and true to the good, bad, indifferent and immeasurable qualities of young humans. Organized only informally, the quotes begin with a series of characterizations of childhood, including Longfellow's: "Ah! What would the world be to us/ If the children were no more?/ We should dread the desert behind us/ Worse than the dark before." Cited too is Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark's comment that "every boy, in his heart, would rather steal second base than an automobile." There's also the Arab proverb that says, "The whisper of a pretty girl can be heard further than the roar of a lion."
Among the childophobes, of course, is W.C. Fields: "Is this your basketball? It seems to have fallen under my tire several times." And as curmudgeons go, old Bill had nothing on Leo Tolstoy: "Children are a torment and nothing more."
The advice section includes this from essayist Daniel Menaker: "Do not videotape your child in the bathtub. Do not name your child after a Scandinavian deity, or any aspect of the weather. Encourage your child to keep looking for something until he finds it. Once a year, change the family's destination in the middle of a trip."
There are just enough such morsels in this little book. To sum up, here's Dr. Seuss—"Adults are obsolete children"—and D. H. Lawrence: "Never have ideas about children—and never have ideas for them." (Pushcart, $12.95)