Saturday, 21 January 2012

I was given books

as a child which were "classics". The first of these were books like The tale of Peter Rabbit" and the works of AA Milne. I have given copies of those to other children and I will come back to them later in the year.
But I was also given copies of things like "Heidi" and "Pollyanna". I have not given copies of these things to any child. My first copy of "Heidi" was a large picture book version. It was nothing more than a not-very-accurate synopsis with rather dreadful pictures. My maternal grandmother thought it was a wonderful book. My brother cut it up with his "kindergarten" scissors. I encouraged him. It is the only book either of us ever deliberately maliciously defaced.
We did not like it.
Several years later my maternal grandmother gave me "Pollyanna". It was another book she liked. She had other "Pollyanna" books as well. I did not like it - or the other books. I still do not care for it or the other books. The Whirlwind found it on my shelves some time ago. She read it after seeing the film at a friend's house. I can remember her comments well.
"I didn't know it was a book. Was that why they made it into a film?" Did she like it? "Not much." Why? "It doesn't sound right - like the person writing it did not really mean it. The story is a bit silly."
I explained that the book had been written a long time ago and writing style was different.
"Yeah like maybe but the story is still silly."
I offered her "Heidi" - the full version. It was my maternal grandmother's present the following year. She was still trying to get me to like the few books she liked before television meant she did no reading at all. I read it but it did not enthrall me.
Later there was "Anne of Green Gables". There was also "A girl of the Limberlost". My mother knew about the sequels to these and Pollyanna. She had borrowed them from other people and read them as a child but she did not speak of them, or any other book, with great enthusiasm.
Heidi was returned with the comment. "That was a bit better but I am not impressed." Right. Then the Whirlwind wanted to know,
"Why do books get to be classics? Is it because they really are good and I just don't understand them?"
What do you think?

8 comments:

Frances said...

"Heidi" is about healing and redemption through simplicity, isn't it? Quite an appealing message, if not an engrossing book. I do wonder if your picture book was the one that I saw, taken from a film starring Shirley Temple!!
I liked all of L M Montgomery's childrens' books, perhaps AoGG less than others. To me she provides strong, idealistic role models for girls...and, where else would a school child come across Tennyson these days?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps part of the answer to the "classics" question is that these were the better books which were available at the time they were written. They may not be great works of literature, although some are, but they have endured because they appealed. I note both Heidi and Pollyanna are orphams. There are other parallels in the stories - and with other classics. Of the two however Heidi is a much believable character than that saccharine sweet Pollyanna! Ros

Wendy Ogden said...

I remember years ago my late parents in law were given a boxed set of DVDS of Anne of Green Gables.

It was only my MIL who read regularly but they enjoyed these stories together and watched them over and over many times.

I don't know much about classics but do wonder if its something to do with their levels of escapism increasing as they age. The stories and their audience?

widdershins said...

Sometimes it's as simple as a good PR campaign.

jeanfromcornwall said...

I think that so many of those children's classics became so because they were the best of what was available. Things improved a lot when Puffin books took off.

Of the older classics, I liked "What Katy Did" best - probably because she was a bit of a rebel.

Then there started to be Rosemary Sutcliff's books. I have very recently re-read a couple of them, and needed a hanky in my hand. She didn't write down to children.

JO said...

I agree with Katy - I loved 'What Katy Did' But the book I read over and over till I knew every word was 'Black Beauty' . . . Even thinking of it takes me back to reading under the covers with a torch!

Ann said...

I never liked Heidi or Pollyanna. I found nothing in them that I could identify with. I loved Black Beauty and Arthurian tales. Anything with magic and horses!!!

catdownunder said...

No, not that book Frances - although I think I may have seen it!
I wonder how true to the stories the DVDs were Wendy? And that would certainly add to any PR campaign!
I much prefer Rosemary Sutcliff Jean - you are absolutely right about the way she tells a story.
What Katy Did was, I think, the book I was given the following year. I would have to look at the inscription in it.
But I was never given a copy of Black Beauty - I was not a "horsey" child or a "ballet" one so I missed out on those.