“Child! do not throw this book about” by Hilaire Belloc

This humorous/serious poetic admonition reminds children to take care of their book and “do not throw this book about”! Hilaire Belloc doesn’t stop with just telling the children what not to do — he explains why. These little readers are much more than than just little consumers or destroyers. They are valued persons with a higher purpose in life, and they have the power to decide to do good, rather than be destructive.

A literary admonition is so much more engaging than the list of reminders that appeared in most library books for children when I was young. We were told to wash our hands before touching a library book, to avoid dog-earing the pages, and not to break the spine. If I recall correctly, there was even an ominous reminder in small print that if we harmed a book, our parents would have to pay for it. That’s rather a contrast to Belloc’s call to live up to their higher call!

This poem originally appeared on the frontispiece of the Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, a book of verse by Hilaire Belloc.

On the Gift of a Book to a Child

Bad Child's Book of Beasts by Hilaire BellocChild! do not throw this book about;
Refrain from the unholy pleasure
Of cutting all the pictures out!
Preserve it as your chiefest treasure.

Child, have you never heard it said
That you are heir to all the ages?
Why, then, your hands were never made
To tear these beautiful thick pages!

Your little hands were made to take
The better things and leave the worse ones.
They also may be used to shake
The Massive Paws of Elder Persons.

And when your prayers complete the day,
Darling, your little tiny hands
Were also made, I think, to pray
For men that lose their fairylands.

Read more of Hilaire Belloc’s humorous poetry.


Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) was an orator, poet, satirist, man of letters, and political activist. He is most notable for his Catholic faith, which had a strong impact on most of his works, and for his writing collaboration with his friend, G. K. Chesterton. His most lasting legacy is probably his verse, which encompasses cautionary tales and religious poetry.