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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On My Previous Post and Comments

My previous post received some comments that I think deserve further consideration. How many of the books we loved as children stand up to adult reading? Why? Does it matter?

For me, the L.M. Montgomery books do stand long as I don't overdose. There are certain themes in the books that get repeated -with different characters- in each book. When given adequate time between reading, I don't find this a problem, but I'm certainly aware of it.

For really young children-- if I can read a book over and over to a child without thinking it banal...I (as an adult) rate it an excellent children's book. Children, however, often love to have books read to them over and over that an adult will consider boring and trite (driving said adult to distraction at the 3rd reading, much less the 203rd demanded by said child). If the book appeals to many children in the same way, then logically, it must have qualities that place it above the dull category into which an adult might consign it.

For early readers-- being able to read on their own in such a reward in and of itself for children. Having characters that can be counted on to remain the same (I don't think young children want character growth nearly as much as they want dependability), but who continue having new adventures is a plus for beginning readers.

Another note, I remember when my children fell in love with the Sweet Valley High series. I was stunned, horrified! Their reading levels so much higher and there were so many excellent books available, why did they turn to these silly things? Obviously, I was too old to appreciate whatever call these books had. I, who would not have blinked an eye had they been reading Nancy Drew. Which tells me something... I read Exodus, Gone with the Wind, and other adult books in grade school, and I adored Nancy Drew. At the same time.

Poetry is the same way. I still love some of the poems I read in childhood. They are not good poetry, and I'm perfectly capable of distinguishing between the quality of "Little Boy Blue" by Eugene Field and "Holy Sonnet 10" by John Donne. I love them both. I read Donne as a child (in one of my mother's anthologies), but I couldn't appreciate him. Maybe Eugene Field is partially responsible for creating a love of poetry that was capable of growing and maturing. In my book, that makes Field as important as John Donne.

So... does it matter if The Boxcar Children would not stand up to a re-reading from an adult perspective? Not for me. It was a step on the way and will always evoke feelings of comfort and satisfaction and gratitude.


  1. Jenclair, I have one book that I bought for the grandchildren that I never tire of reading to them. It's called If I Were A Lion. The story is so cute and the pictures are darling.

    It's about a little girl who gets sat in the time out chair for being wild. She shrugs her shoulders and looks at the reader and says, "Wild, who me?" The kids love that part. Then she tells about what she would do if she was wild taking on the part of different animals.

    I think my grandson is starting to realize that the animals are really her stuffed animals brought to life by a vivid imagination. He is still working the idea over and hasn't quite cemented it in his understanding, though.

  2. Oh, Miss Mila would probably like this one. She is quite familiar with "time out." :)

  3. I think "a step on the way" is a perfect way to describe certain childhood books, even if they're not the highest quality. I'm 31 and have to include myself in the group of 5th/6th graders who loved Sweet Valley High, even though I remember my friend and I being able to make fun of certain aspects of them even at that young age. I'm going to have to remember your words when my own kids grow up to choose books on their own. :)

  4. You said, "I read Exodus, Gone with the Wind, and other adult books in grade school, and I adored Nancy Drew. At the same time." Jen, I thought I was reading my own words! I read those so early, also Steinbeck and others and I loved them. I remember going to the library and picking out a book from the "adult" stacks and having the librarian tell me I couldn't check it out becasue it was not from the children's section...I was crushed. I don't remember what it was now, it may very well have been inappropriate, but I read far above my age and couldn't understand why I couldn't check out that book. And I also devoured Nancy Drew, spent my $1 per week allowance on them every Saturday morning and went home to read the whole thing that afternoon (my mom kept telling me to "savor them" but I couldn't, I had to know what happened!) I agree with your "steps along the way" idea. I think anything that gets kids reading is a step along the way and should be encouraged. I was never so happy as when I realized that my childrten's tastes had evolved and they were reading "good" books, finally, as young adults...I would go insane without my books so I am happy that they have found pleasure in reading, as well.

    Interesting post...

  5. Camille - :) You are the same age as my eldest daughter who discovered the SVH books about the same time you did. I wonder if they are still popular or if something else has taken their place...

    Debby - The librarians questioned me as well, but I started with books on archaelology (my father said I couldn't read any more Nancy Drew without having something "worthwhile" to balance it), and the librarians probably assumed I was just looking at the pictures. The novels I read at the time were mostly my mother's.

    I can't imagine what I'd do without my books either. If I didn't go insane, I'd probably drive everyone else crazy.

  6. I agree with you, I think the L.M. Montgomery books stand the test of time. I actually think alot of YA level books do as well. Books like the Sweet Valley High ones, etc. may not as those kind of books appear to be mass market quick fiction that is so dependent on the time period that they are written in and on getting a product on the shelves quickly that I don't think they hold up.

  7. Carl - I agree. There a number of YA books that stand the test of time, and no, I don't think the SWH books will be in that number. I do think they can fill a niche even as kids read better books as well. I still read both good books and well, books that are not so good, but entertaining. :)

  8. I completely identified with reding Exodus and Nancy Drew at the same time. I'm not sure I've changed. I enjoy a light read mixed in with the really thought-provoking books. By the way, thanks for reminding me of Exodus. I love Leon Uris' books. Have you read Trinity?

  9. Framed - Variety! I'm all for adding the zest of light reading into the mix.

    I read Mila 18 and QB 7 and The Haj. Loved the first two, but re-read them a few years back and was surprised that they seemed...less skilled than I would have thought. When I read them originally, I was completely drawn into the stories.

    Have not read Trinity, but remember loads of people singing its praises. An odd coincidence, my youngest daughter's middle name is Larkin, the name of one of the families in the novel.