Anything Can Happen Day

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 HungerFor 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?


6 thoughts on “Anything Can Happen Day”

  1. I read The Abandoned as an older child – yes, I would not recommend it as a story to read young children. But I recalled it favorably and signed up to get the reprint – I’m reading several things right now, so am only part way through it. “For Love of Seven Dolls” sounds interesting. Thank you!

  2. I don’t remember reading Paul Gallico. Most likely our local library didn’t have his work or I would have found it. I mostly read age-appropriate books until 6th grade (10/11 years old). That’s the year I read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, the first three Dune books (the only Dune books at that time)and John Jakes’ The Americans series. My mother allowed me to choose books from the adult SF section that year so I probably started in on Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke as well (they were at the beginning of the alphabet and I was a bit methodical in my browsing. As a bookseller I occasionally struggle with age-appropriate recommendations for that age because of my own leap.

  3. I like Gallico, but some kids would not be happy reading some of his works that may now be touted as children’s books. Manxmouse might or might not be more appropriate, or The Man Who Was Magic.

    One of my favorites of his is Hiram Holliday, and the sequel’s pretty good too.

  4. I remember reading Thomasina and loving it so much that I read the Snow Goose, The Silent Miaow and Too Many Ghost and Love, Let Me Not Hunger as soon as I could get my hands on them. I was 8 years old at the time, living in Mt Pleasant, Iowa, in a rather fancy old plantation-style home that my parents rented from the hospital that was right behind the house, a hospital that I was actually born in, and now where my mother worked as a nurse. Anyhoo, the Mt Pleasant Library was in a brick Victorian house with a turret that had many nooks in which a child might hide and read. It also had a sympathetic librarian who allowed me to get past the velvet rope of the adult section because I’d read my way through the kids section 3 years prior. I started reading Madeline Brent romance/ghost stories, I read Arthur C Clarke, Ray Bradbury and every Andre Norton and Patricia McKillip book I could find. And I remember reading “Peyton Place” because it was a ‘forbidden’ book and therefore all the more interesting! Turns out it wasn’t that big of a deal by todays standards, and honestly, Mt Pleasant was a very gossipy small town, so I didn’t really see why the book was such a big deal.

  5. Oh, and I loved the movie with Lili with Leslie Caron, but then I was so entranced by her performance in An American in Paris and Daddy Long Legs that I would have watched her read the phone book. The movie seemed so tragic and sad, and yet I loved those puppets! I don’t recall if I read the book version of Lili, because I read a lot of books as a kid, and I often found that the library didn’t stock authors entire ouvre, so I would think I’d read all of one particular author’s works, only to find that they had a bunch of other books out that were not available at the Mt Pleasant Library. We moved to West Des Moines awhile later, and they had better libraries. I went to high school in Ankeny, Iowa, and they had the Kirkendal Library, which seemed vast to me at the time, and also had an inter-library loan system, thank heaven.

  6. Paul Gallico? The Poseidon Adventure? The Adventures of Hiram Holiday? I never read his kids’ books.

    I started reading Prather’s Shell Scott novels when I was ten because my mother tended to leave her paperbacks about. Those were exciting. Falconhurst Fancy was not.

    That’s how I, around the same age, discovered Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain and Kurt Vonnegut. Heinlein’s juveniles I started at 8-yo. By twelve I was inhaling Stranger in a Strange Land. Not that Gulliver’s Travels or Huckleberry Finn were less challenging when I was 11-yo, but they were considered children’s book by adults around me who had never bothered to read them.


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