Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Books that hold up and books that don't
Some friends and I were talking about re-reading books we had loved as children, and how some hold up and some don't. For me, LITTLE WOMEN really held up -- but someone else found all the mother's lectures and Louisa May Alcott's own preachiness really annoying. I did, too, but I still love the book anyhow and suspect that as a child, I ignored those parts the way I ignored much of what the adults in my life said.
Some books that did hold up for me:
The Secret Garden -- I may even love this MORE now, even though I never could get as interested in Colin as I was in Mary, AND liked her better before she became nice
The Hobbit -- especially the scene with the trolls,and when they are first riding into Rivendell
very old MADs, from the late 1950s and early 1960s--they still make me laugh out loud
the d'Aulaires Abraham Lincoln
--to name a random few. I could go on and on, but what's going to be most interesting about this post is what other people think.
I also reread a Giant Golden book called ASTRONOMY and could see why I liked it so much, but as an adult, I didn't read every word. Maybe as a kid I didn't either! I was sad, though, to see something I don't know if I noticed as a child: that the scientists and astronauts were always men of European ancestry -- and that even the children doing simple experiments were white boys. People -- men and women -- with dark skins appeared in skin-tight outfits stretching their arms to the moon. Once a woman in a neat suit, hat, and gloves looked at a meteorite with her children. The text talked about MEN going into space someday.
If I get impatient with PC things, I will remember this book and its not-so-subtle message. I hope I ignored it the way I ignored the preachiness in LITTLE WOMEN but I wonder....
What didn't hold up:
Alice in Wonderland -- this wasn't one of my FAVORITE books as a kid, but I did like it a lot. I thought Alice was really smart and both loved and admired the way she always tried to figure everything out. When I reread it as an adult, I realized with dismay that that was supposed to be funny! I also found the book too boring to finish.
Then there were some classics that I could never get into as a child and can't now--like Carl Sandburg's short stories for kids. One was in a beloved, literally loved-to-pieces anthology illustrated by Garth Williams called THE TALL BOOK OF MAKE BELIEVE (this story was NOT by Carl Sandburg -- it's "The Very Mischief"):
Although I read everything else in that book over and over and over, I could never finish the Carl Sandburg story. It just seemed pointless and kind of stupid -- the kind of silliness some adults think children like. I also hated (and still hate) Aesop's Fables.
What about you? What has held up? What hasn't?
I'm especially curious about all the great children's books I've read for the first time as an adult, because I just don't know what I would have thought of them as a child.
(I am only listing authors who are dead in keeping with our blog's unofficial policy of not discussing work by living authors....not that we have ever even really talked about this, we just don't seem to do it.)