Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts on yesterday’s Teapot Tempest. Still considering, here.
While I consider, the red squirrel is performing Daring Acrobatic Feats between the seed-feeder and the woodpecker block. Honestly, you think he’d run away and join the circus, rather than hiding his light up here in Central Maine.
I may have forgotten to mention here that, in and among the various packages and deliveries making their way to the Confusion Factory, was a copy of The Abandoned by Paul Gallico. This was originally published in 1950 and has now been reprinted by The New York Review Children’s Collection, which is apparently trying to single-handedly bring back into print many books that were, arguably, written for children, including Daniel Pinkwater’s Lizard Music, E. Nesbit’s The House of Arden, James Thurber’s 13 Clocks and Eric Linklater’s The Wind on the Moon.
Clearly. . .people used to expect. . .different things. . .from children’s books, though I would dispute 13 Clocks — I don’t think it was written specifically for children, though children may of course appreciate it.
In fact, I would say that The Abandoned isn’t a kid’s book (despite that it’s about a little boy who is “changed into” a cat). Granted, I read it as a child, but I read a lot of what would now be called “age-inappropriate” stuff when I was a kid. In the Paul Gallico ouvre alone, I read, in addition to The Abandoned, all the Mrs. ‘arris books, The Snow Goose, The Foolish Immortals, Snowflake, Thomasina, The Silent Miaow, The Hand of Mary Constable, Too Many Ghosts, The Man Who was Magic, Love, Let Me Not Hunger, For Love of Seven Dolls. . . and so on. . .
For Love of Seven Dolls was made into the movie Lili, which I suppose my mother saw when it was new, and remembered fondly. Based on the film, she basically gave me a pass on Everything Gallico. In fact, the film is (as is often the case), Nothing At All like the source material. Lili, which I saw, I guess, on one of the Nights at the Movies that was popular when I was a kid (Monday Night at the Movies, Wednesday Night at the Movies, Friday Night at the Movies) is. . .the slightly confused, but basically harmless, story of a girl who falls in loves with a puppet show, and joins it, and through the puppets comes to love the puppeteer, who is crusty and bitter, but has basically been trying to look out for her.
For Love of Seven Dolls is also the story of a girl who falls in loves with a puppet show, and joins it, but the puppeteer, who is VERY bitter, abuses her and beats her, and her only solace is the puppets, who are kind and loving. She finally realizes that the puppets are given life by the puppeteer, and she makes the philosophical leap that their characters must lie hidden inside of him; that he is, therefore, not a Bad Man after all, and on the brink of leaving him, she returns, to forgive him, and perhaps to redeem him, though it’s hard to see how that’s going to work out.
Not a kid’s book.
The Abandoned, while not as. . .rugged. . .does contain some material that would nowadays be considered inappropriate for children, including a love affair and the hero’s murderous duel for his mating rights. Also, the scene where he learns how to kill a rat is pretty harrowing. The hero, Peter, is, let me reiterate, seven years old. And yes, a seven-year-old cat is an adult — even, on the street, a very old cat. But I can’t imagine any of the arbiters of current children’s literature forgetting for one moment that this is a story about a seven-year-old boy.
So, what books did you read as a kid which wouldn’t pass the “child” test today?