18 April 2006

Classics Revisited

Wow! I received my Junior Classics set yesterday—five days from purchase to shipment arrival! I hadn't bought anything on eBay since fall of 2004, partially because of Mom being sick and all the other things that happened in 2005, and partially because, on my penultimate purchase of 2004, I never received my merchandise and the seller never responded to my e-mails. (After I posted feedback stating this, at least four other people contacted me saying this same seller had never sent their merchandise either and had not responded to their e-mails. I discovered just this morning that the seller actually left me a negative feedback, saying I was a "pain in the ass" for inquiring about my order!) Anyway, it had put me off ordering from eBay for a while.

The books are not mint, but in excellent shape. When I used to go upstairs at Linda's house and sneak a look at the copies her brother had (I still think of these volumes as "Armand's books" <g>), I mostly concentrated on Volume 9, "The Animal Book," but am planning to read them all, even the Greek and Roman myths, which I consider rather boring, and have started from the beginning with the fairy and folk tales. I'm discovering stories I recall reading so long ago, not just the standards like "Cinderella" and "Puss in Boots," but the entire story of "The Three Little Pigs," "The Goose Girl," etc. (I need to let James read "The Bremen Town Musicians" so he'll know what the statue of the animals at Lenox Mall is all about.)

Refreshingly, none of these books are in BIG PRINT or contain paragraphs interrupted with BIG COLORED WORDS in simplified vocabulary (dialect from other countries is even used); even the youngest child is considered to have some intelligence (and a friendly person to read it to them if necessary).

I did page through all of them, including "The Animal Book" and discovered that it contains John Muir's "Stickeen," which I originally read in an elementary school reader, and Eric Knight's original short story of "Lassie Come-Home," which contains several differences from the book, including Joe being named after his father and Priscilla being named Philippa and being older in the story (she can drive a car). Lassie's travels actually take up only two or three pages in the short story; it is mostly about the people around her and how they react to her faithfulness rather than actually about Lassie.

It is interesting to realize that much of what we think of as "children's stories" were not originally written just for children. Rather today their subject matter pegs them as "children's stories." "Lassie Come-Home" was not written for children and did not appear originally in a children's magazine, but rather in The Saturday Evening Post. "My Friend Flicka" is another—it was originally published in Story magazine, not a children's publication. People who see the novel version of Flicka as a sweet story about a boy and his horse have never read the book: Rob and Nell's marriage is chronicled in an adult manner, and topics of adult responsibility, the harsh reality of Western range life, and keeping body and soul together financially are all explored...not your usual topics for children. Years ago, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and others were all written as adult books.

No comments: