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Monday, August 23, 2010

"A bit of trash now and then is good for the severest reader.  It provides the necessary roughage in the literary diet."  --Phyllis McGinley

It is one of those serendipitous coincidences that after having read the above quote in the new Reading Woman Engagement Calendar that Debby sent me, I read this post over at Annie Joy's Letters about one of her favorite fairy tales as a child, The Plain Princess by Phyllis McGinley. 

Have to admit that I agree with Annie Joy about the recent phenomenon that elevates self-absorption to entertainment-- celebrating the rudeness and egotism of individuals most of us would never want to to know.

It is disturbing that many parents begin this kind of training almost as soon as a kid can walk and talk.  Instead of teaching kindness, generosity, patience, and self-control, some parents seem to delight in a kid's misbehavior and label them, as Annie Joy mentions, divas.  Good luck with that!  It will definitely come back to haunt them.

All kids behave badly at times and often the bad behavior is hilariously funny.  That doesn't mean that you want to encourage bad behavior, even if you are chuckling inside as you correct it.

Good children's books promote some insight into the feeling's of others, prompting empathy.  The books don't have to be Pollyanna-ish (although, frankly, I loved Pollyanna;  in recent years, that is a confession that one doesn't always want made public).  I did, though.  Not that I could have ever been that patient or that kind, but I wanted to be.

Why is Anne of Green Gables still popular after all of these years?  Another little do-gooder, Anne.  Another child with a positive outlook and determined kindness.  How passe'.  Yet we former readers continue to return to Anne and her friends with regularity and find peace, comfort, and inspiration.  Of course, Anne has a bit of a temper on occasion that we can also appreciate.

Bad girls can also be inspiring. My girls LOVED Kay Thompson's Eloise.  I even read it to my AP English students, and they loved it, too;  I've read that book aloud more times than I can count.  (Notice the similarity of covers with The Plain Princess.)  Eloise, however, had an absent mother;  as entertaining as her behavior is, most kids realize the reason for it.  Eloise isn't mean-spirited, and she and Nanny have a loving relationship.  In many ways, I suppose, it is a cautionary tale, but such a thoroughly delightful look at mischief and imagination.

 I'll mention one more great children's book about mischief and a mother who both understands and guides.  Olivia by Ian Falconer also draws on Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight (illustrator) for this charming series for pre-readers.

But I digress.  Back to the quote.

"A bit of trash now and then is good for the severest reader.  It provides the necessary roughage in the literary diet."  --Phyllis McGinley

I've been reading a lot of trash lately. It makes reviewing even harder when you have mostly negative points to make.  Sometimes trips to the library yield mostly treasures, and sometimes, trash.  Lately, my selections have included more of the latter than I'd like.

Some I've returned unread, some I bulldoze through regardless. This what what I intended to post about, reading trash, but I found the connection with Phyllis McGinley's quote and Annie Joy's post much more interesting, and I so love good children's books.


  1. You made my day by referencing my post and I really appreciated your segue into these wonderful recommended books. I love your blog and the quote about a book being a garden carried in your pocket in "Wall Words" on my office wall at the library. Look forward to visiting you again!

  2. Annie Joy, thanks for getting me off on a digression that I enjoyed. I love re-visiting childhood favorites and can't wait to read some of them aloud to my grandchildren.