Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A book for children...

I had forgotten all about this book until I bumped into it by accident recently. But when I saw it, I well recalled reading it when I was quite young. It made a big impression.

On reading it now, I had some thoughts that of course would never have occurred to six year old me.

Starting with, shock. Actual, internal surprise. This would NEVER win the Newbery Medal today. Are you joking? It would never even be published. Only its Newbery keeps it in print.

If somehow it DID see the light of day, its author would be hounded out of the scribblers' guild. I cannot imagine any public or government school librarian permitting it to be added to the stacks. Other Newbery winners have been sanitized, but this entire book is thoughtcrime.

I've asked three librarians in different parts of the country to see if it was in inventory. The only one who said it was, after looking at it, expressed surprise at its presence.

The America of the time this book was published was a very different place. It was in its physical world- genuine poverty, segregation, sound(ish) money, no welfare, nationally engulfing war right off shore, men with neckties at the ball game, and the criminals always losing in the movies.

But that mental America must have been different from this one too. Some of those differences will scream at you when you imagine what would happen if this book magically appeared on the shelves at a school in Berkley or Westport. They are too obvious for even I, the Earl of Obvious, to point out. But there are a LOT of them.

That America was different from the way we have been taught, and are told, to imagine it as well. A couple of things from the book bring that home to me.

I won't talk about them here, for fear of spoilage. I've put most of the book in the post immediately preceding this one, and so that post- from March 4, 2008, is big- 40 pictures. Click on each picture to make it large enough to read. It will take a while to load if your machine is slow. I've left out the preface (which is for adults), most of the illustrations, and the last chapter. That's fair use, and if you want to discover what happens...

But if the owners ask me to take it down, I will.

I've got a couple of thoughts at the end of that post that might be not entirely obvious.

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