Childhood favourites (Was Oh the horror!)

JOdel at aol.com JOdel at aol.com
Thu Feb 6 13:55:30 EST 2003


I bought my copy of Nancy and Plum through amazon a year or two ago, it is 
probably still findable, if not as easily as it was then.

I actually encountered remarkably few English children's books until I was in 
my teens. This despite the fact that my own family background was "English", 
(Scots-Irish, actually) and very aware of it. 

But most of the things which have been enthroned as classic English 
children's books were published after the turn of the 20th century, and Gran, 
who came over in the late 1880s never heard of them, consequently, my mother, 
who was of an age to have read them as a child, never encountered them. Small 
wonder that the only ones I could think of off the top of my head were either 
ones old enough for Gran to have encountered when she was still reasonably 
young, with small children at home, or ones which were published during my 
own childhood.

There was an exception which I completely missed when I made my list and 
probably would have made a better example than the Narnia books which I 
didn't discover until I was about 12. That's the Mary Poppins books. I don't 
know why I didn't think of them. Probably because the illustrations weren't 
striking enough to stick with me (I did, after all, turn out to be the sort 
of kid who grew up to work in Graphics) and -- for all that I enjoyed the 
adventures themselves -- I found Mary herself to be a snotty, rather smug 
bitch and only worth cultivating for the sake of getting to go on the 
occasional magical adventure. (Sort of the "price one pays".)

The Dolittles were actually pointed out to me by a librarian when I was 9 or 
10. But talking animals never much interested me outside of Oz (where that 
was only to be expected) and something about the kind of humor put me off. I 
was not the kind of kid who responds well to nonsense. I plowed through the 
start of the first one, (meeting considerable resistence in the first place) 
until I got to the pushme-pullyu at which point I put my foot down. That was 
just too damn stupid to be believed, and I felt I was being insulted that I 
anything of the sort was expected of me. I returned the book to the library 
in a snit and never tried to read them again. I had no interest in seeing the 
movies either.

I also read collections of fairy tales from sources other than Lang's 
anthologies. There was one called Tales of a Chineese Grandmother, which I 
particularly liked. I think there may have been another "foreign grandmother" 
collection as well. And one all time favorite for about three years running 
was a collection of magical horse stories. I haven't a clue who collected 
them. (I was as nuts for horses and most little girls, but somehow hadn't a 
lot of real interest in stories about real horses. Have never actually tried 
to examine this...)
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