Thursday, July 06, 2006

New and forgotten classics

I spent my afternoon break perusing the shelves of the children's classics sections, thinking it might be nice to add hardback editions of some childhood favorites to my library: Old Yeller, Betsy-Tacy, Just So Stories, and a few others. These are books I read over and over as a kid, and I know I'll read them again, so why not treat myself to copies that will last? I noticed on the shelf not one but two different editions of a classic I'll never read again, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. Did you ever read this puerile book? It's the sappiest thing ever written, with the possible exception of Little Lord Fauntleroy. The five Pepper kids and their adored mother ("Mamsie" -- barf!) have all kinds of insipid adventures with Jasper (a.k.a. "Jappy" -- retch!), their new rich-kid friend. Beloved Polly, the oldest daughter, almost goes blind when she tears the bandages from her weak eyes in order to stop her siblings from bickering. Despite my current distaste for this title, I know I read it at least twice when I was a kid, so there must have been something about it that appealed to me. Perhaps there just wasn't anything else around to read.

My dad bought me my copy of The Five Little Peppers. He told me it was a book he had enjoyed as a kid. Another childhood favorite he purchased for me, and which I read only once because it was so incredibly peculiar, was The Little Lame Prince. Yeah, you read that right: "lame." It was about this crippled boy (royalty, I suppose) who leads a solitary life in an ivory tower in the middle of a barren plain. Somehow he gets ahold of a magic cloak and some magic goggles. When he sits on the cloak and wraps it around himself, he's able to fly out the window and go soaring all over the place; the magic goggles magnify everything so he can see what's going on far below him. It's beyond weird -- I'm sure the book's publication predated the invention of LSD, but the author must have been under the influence of something to come up with a plot like that. Together, these two books made me feel sorry for my dad, who always loved to read; the tiny North Dakota town he grew up in must have had the world's lousiest library. My mom, on the other hand, passed some excellent childhood faves on to me, wonderful classics like Little Women, Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, and A Little Princess.

I was distressed to see The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger shelved in the classics section. That made me feel old, because I remember quite well when it was first published.

1 comment:

Janine said...

The Little Lame Prince... and The Cat Ate My Gymsuit... I don't think I will put those on Dylan's summer reading list. Very odd sounding books indeed.