Have you been injured by a book when it wasn’t your fault? ;-)

 I loved her Little House series of books and particularly enjoyed The Long Winter (apt??) and On the Banks of Plum Creek.  They count among the few books I was able to salvage from my parents’ house after they died and my brother moved in and decluttered! 

For some reason, I have seen several adult bloggers writing articles on these books in recent weeks, either re-reading them or reading them for the first time.  Some have claimed that there is a deep rooted racism in the stories, that Rose, Laura’s daughter was largely responsible for injecting narrative pace and interest into the autobiographical tales, that Rose was a white supremacist…I’ve also learned a new phrase “manifest destiny”, the belief of many white Americans in the mid 18th century that they had a God given right to colonise all of North America – (I think the British Empire employed that concept too! Stick out tongue)

Well, knock me down with a feather, but I think I preferred the innocence of reading these books as a child without delving for the subtext or getting on my PC high horse.  I will hold my hands up and confess to reading all of the Narnia series without being aware of the “overtly” Christian themes despite what a recent reviewer wrote “Anyone familiar with Christian beliefs cannot help but notice the symbolism in the Chronicles of Narnia”…… obviously the nuns were not as influential as I thought!  And don’t start me on Enid Blyton whose books delighted me as a child and how traumatised when my sister returned from one term at teacher training college to announce to my parents that I was not to have any more EB books as the lecturers thought they weren’t literary enough – cue me bawling my eyes out!  This was long before the whole racist/sexist attack on EB.

Anyway, only this week we’ve had a book nominated for the Blue Peter Book Award shortlist and then removed when it was considered unsuitable for very young readers.  It’s hard to keep up with all the changes – one minute we shouldn’t have age ranges recommended for children’s books, the next we should…

Well, after much digression, did you enjoy the Little House series, the Narnia series, Enid’s tales of fantasy and adventure or have you been emotionally scarred by them – cue the ad saying “having you been injured by a book when it wasn’t your fault!”

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13 Comments

  1. Amy says:

    Love this post – so true! As children we read the books without realizing anything is wrong at all. I didn’t see the Christian symbolism in Narnia until it was mentioned to me and then I got it… But once you think about it, man, how did I miss it?!

  2. Jenny says:

    I love Narnia, liked Laura Ingalls Wilder, and never read Blyton. I did go through a period of being a bit angry with Lewis when I got into my teens, because I suddenly realized he was sexist, and it saddened my heart.

  3. lovelytreez says:

    I wonder if current children’s authors are much more aware of being PC or is the backlash waiting for them in years to come?? ;-)

  4. Iris says:

    O oh, I just wrote a post about Little House on the Prairie for tomorrow. ;)

    I do think analysing these books might take the pleasure out of them. It IS admittedly hard to ignore the ideas on Native Americans in the books though. Very hard. And I like analysing to death sometimes, but I guess that’s because I studies history :P

  5. Violet says:

    I’d never heard of Ingalls Wilder until I read about her on blogs, and only found out about the Narnia books when the movie came out. They just didn’t get a mention in my childhood! However, Enid Blyton was a BIG influence on me as a child. As a lonely kid rattling around on a farm, with only much older half-siblings who detested me, I tended to live in books. I WAS George in the Famous Five, and I loved Noddy and Big Ears when I was little. (I cringe at the G*lliw*gs now, especially seeing the dolls for sale in shops, because I can’t overlook the ugly, inherent racism they embody.) No doubt I was a tomboy to begin with, but looking back, I can see that the George character had a profound influence on the way I thought and behaved as a child. I suppose it’s natural for kids to identify with fictional characters, which is why there are so many fairy princesses these days! I just know that I was very much affected by what I read, including the wildly inappropriate books that my father left lying around. :)

  6. I must admit to rolling my eyeballs when I see some reviews about books like this. In my opinion, they are signs of the times and shouldn’t be swept under the carpet because of it. So what if some of them made racist or sexist comments – the thing is, they weren’t then; that’s just how people saw the world. If we kept books with any “un-PC” comments away from people now then how would be know how far we have come? It’s an important piece of history and should be seen as just that.

    Rock on Enid Blyton et al!

  7. admin says:

    Hear, hear, Boof! :-)

  8. admin says:

    I felt the same way about books as a child, Violet, a means of escapism. I was the youngest by far and left to my own devices a lot of the time – good job I didn’t have any criminal tendencies! ;-)

  9. admin says:

    I don’t think I want to ever re-read them now, Iris, or I might feel that my childhood has been sullied!

  10. admin says:

    I’ve just seen The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Jenny and funnily enough it is the Christian message rather than any sexism which comes through on the big screen, at least to my adult eyes although I don’t think my 7 yr old daughter felt the same…

  11. admin says:

    Amy, I don’t think children see this, their minds are on things like what toy am I getting next and what’s for dinner! As I’ve mentioned in another reply, I saw The Voyage of the Dawn Treader recently at the movies and the Christian message was really obvious but the Brownies I was accompanying (aged 7-9) all thought “Aw what a cuddly lion!” ;-)

  12. Yvann says:

    Bit late to this discussion, but never mind…

    These three series featured hugely in my childhood. And as a child (I’m going to say… up to 10 years old?) I had no awareness of any symbolism or other -isms in any of them, I thought they were all fabulous.

    When someone told me about the Christian symbolism in Narnia I was disappointed at the time, I didn’t want some of my beloved books spoilt by all this religion nonsense! Now that I am older and wiser and understand my faith a bit better, I will have to re-read them and see what I can find for myself. I have only seen the first two films to come out and apart from the bit where Aslan sacrifices himself in LWW, I didn’t feel the Christian imagery was terribly significantly portrayed.

    Little House – having lived in Australia (an ex-colony with very strong ties to the mother ship… sorry ex-imperial power), Germany (less said about Empire there the better) and Britain, I think I can say that empires and colonisation were a big deal and that everyone’s a bit scared of the idea now. I’m sure that in 100 years people will be up in arms about some of the things we take for granted in everyday life now.

    And as for Enid Blyton, again her writing is a reflection of the age in which she wrote and I think all the criticism is a bit overblown, although I respect the choice of academics to research the mores of the times through the writing.

    What 10-year-old needs literary?? Blyton, Lewis and Wilder wrote fantastic adventures for kids, much better than all the explosions and vampires and Disney spinoffs we get these days.

    So I guess you could say I’m on your side!

    Great topic for discussion.

  13. admin says:

    Never too late to join in! And no, no…don’t re-read the Narnia books, I think you would be emotionally traumatised if you did!! My childhood copies will remain on my bookshelves like a mausoleum…oh dear…sounds a bit maudlin now…

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