Coming Soon: Classic Children’s Lit Event, 3

I’m starting to see 2015 plans and challenges pop up here and there and, truth to tell, I’ve been thinking about my own 2015 plans for a while now. Perhaps 2015 should be the year of translations. Strike that. 2015 is about reading from my book shelves. Nope, wait a minute, let’s make 2015 all about women writers. No, no, no, maybe 2015 should be…

But through all this dithering I’ve known that January will involve children’s classics. Because that is what January is. (And also somehow Don Quixote…January could be…interesting…this year.) Somehow I’m finding myself surprised that this will be the third year I’m inviting others to read children’s classics with me in January, but so it is.

2015_Childrens_Lit_OriginalAs in years past, I will be reading an optional readalong title. Only one person offered an opinion when I asked a week or two ago, so The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi it is! I’ve yet to read more than one chapter (two years ago in an aborted attempt to read the Italian–I will most definitely be reading in translation this time), but I have every assurance that this is NOT your Disney Pinocchio. Not having yet read it, I can’t offer much in the way of translation options (other than be sure to look for an unabridged modern version). A little bit of internet research suggests that Geoffrey Brock’s translation for New York Review Books Classics is well regarded (although I should note his is an American English translation, which I know bothers some). For those looking for original illustrations and/or a bilingual version (Italian and English on facing pages), look for the translation by Nicolas J. Parella (University of California Press). And much praise can be found for the 2004 edition illustrated by Roberto Innocenti. (I can’t find the full name of the translator for this one, just “Murray.”) Although Ann Lawson Lucas also apparently has a fairly well-known modern translation, one site I found warned that she turned  “tortellini” into “steak and kidney pudding,” and translated “Geppetto” as “Old Joe” which is enough for me to stay away! (There IS such thing as over-translation, I think.)

Event Basics

  • During the month of January, read as many Children’s Classics as you wish and post about them on your blog and/or leave a comment on the event page on this blog. I will have a link page starting the first of the year to gather posts so that we may share as we go.
  • The optional RAL title: The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. I plan on discussion the weekend of January 23-25.
  • I’m not going to be the “children’s classics” police. Use your own judgement for what fits the category but if you want some guidelines, these are what I’m going by:
    • I think many of us have read more recent children’s books that we may already deem “classics” (for example, many people feel that way about the Harry Potter books), but for this event, I’d prefer if we read books that were written prior to 1964. This will still allow a lot of options, and will hopefully avoid the “but what is a classic” dilemma! (And yes, 1964 is rather arbitrary. Rebel if you wish, but 50 years old seems a good age.)
    • Defining “children’s,” especially prior to 1900 or so can be a challenge as some books we think of as “children’s” today may not have been intended that way at the time. Personally, I’d say books appropriate for approximately an elementary-school aged child or preteen (to read or to have read to them) should be fine. I’d personally also count the various fairy tales, even though some of the earliest versions were not exactly family friendly.
    • Feel free to include books from any country, in translation or not. I have limited exposure to non-American children’s lit, so I’d love to learn about books from other countries myself.
    • Feel free to double up with other events or challenges if you wish.
  • And if you need ideas I posted
  • There is no deadline for joining or participating (other than, of course, the end of January).

Most important: Have fun!

Please let me know in the comments of this post if you are interested in participating, and let me know if you have any questions. Also, please feel free to use any of the event/RAL images on your own blogs.

2015_Childrens_Lit_200 2015_Childrens_Lit_250 2015_Childrens_Lit_300  PinocchioRAL_200 PinocchioRAL_250Happy reading!

Image sources: The event logo painting is Interesting Story, 1898 by Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930), Canadian. The RAL logo illustration is from the first (Italian) edition of Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino, 1883, illustrated by Enrico Mazzanti (1852-1910).

Children’s Classics – A Personal History

Inspired by The Classics Club December Question:

Let’s talk about children’s classics! Did you read any classic works as a child? What were your favorites? If not, have you or will you try any classic children’s literature in the future? (We’re aware children often read at an adult level. Please feel free to share adult OR children’s classics that you treasured in childhood OR children’s works that you’ve recently fallen for.)

I have a memory from 6th grade and a trip to the school library. I must confess, trips to the school library were never that exciting for me–it just never could compare to the “real” library. But this particular day, for reasons I don’t remember, the class went to the library and we were told to look for a book. I was a little at a loss. When the librarian asked what type of book I was looking for, my response? A “classic.” Somehow, even then, I wanted the old books.

I don’t know where this impulse came from. It’s certainly not like I had never read–and enjoyed–recently published novels. The Redwall books were favorites at the time, and I still have more than one then relatively recent Newbery Medal winner my mom gifted me over the years. But also on my shelves: Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables and Little Women and Huckleberry Finn and Hattie Woodlawn and A Wrinkle in Time and Black Beauty and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Confession: I’ve actually never finished Black Beauty and didn’t read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm until a few years ago. Apparently my problem of not reading books actually on my shelves is a long-standing one.) My dad had read my brother and me Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. (Yes, the whole thing. It took a while.) Classics have somehow always been there, whether I called them by that name or not.

Little House on the Prairie was probably the first classic I read. Maybe. It could have been the abridgment of Rose in Bloom that had been my mom’s when she was little. Or, do the Bobbsy Twins count as classics? I have photographic evidence that the Bobbsy Twins books were my chicken-pox era reading material. (Also my mom’s.) But the memory of Little House on the Prairie arriving in my hands, a garage sale find my mom made, is the strongest. Little House on the Prairie would lead to all the other Little House books, a birthday gift.

I didn’t know these books were old. They were stories I liked. They were good. That was all that mattered. They became books that I revisited again and again. If you ask what book I’ve read most, I don’t truly know the answer. I might usually answer Anne of Green Gables, but Little House on the Prairie would give it good competition. And as for a favorite? Impossible!

I’ve never truly given up children’s books. There might have been a bit of a gap when I was in college. (I didn’t have time for much fun reading then, but I do distinctly recall sitting in the university library rereading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.) A few years ago, though, I made a point of revisiting—and discovering new-to-me–children’s classics. There are so many I didn’t know I didn’t know: Finn Family Moomintroll, The Thirteen Clocks, (the aforementioned) Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, plus so many others I have still to read. And I’ve discovered so much joy and delight in them, that I have no desire to stop, and so keep returning. Just like the “grown-up” versions, children’s classics keep calling me back.

And for some shameless self-promotion, anyone who wants to, please join me and others in January reading of Classic Children’s Literature!


Completed: The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Cover: The Return of Sherlock HolmesThe Return of Sherlock Holmes
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
1905, Scotland

 “Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”

(“The Adventure of the Abbey Grange”)

Just a quick post to note that I’ve finally finished the 6th of the Sherlock Holmes titles on my Classics Club list (or 5th book in the 8-volume set I’ve borrowed from my Dad).  This is hands down the longest of the books, which, without actually checking to confirm this assumption, I believe is because the short stories in this collection are lengthier than those in the other collections, not because there are more stories. Certainly, it seemed to take longer to read each story. Although I’ve stated in the past that my problem with the short stories is that it often felt as if there weren’t enough Homes–here that is no problem–the problem here was that it felt at times as if the book was endless! (I’m so fickle.) I’m sure that had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that since starting this collection I’ve finished four other books. Nope, can’t possibly be my fault.

That said, I did enjoy the stories for the most part. Some I worked out much to early in the story (“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder” in particular). Some I was just “meh” about. But I quite enjoyed “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” and “The Adventure of the Priory School.” My memory of the earlier story collections my not be accurate, but it seemed that in this collection–the two last mentioned stories being examples–we see much more of Holmes outside of the murky London that I more strongly associate with Holmes. There are even two stories set in university towns (I envision Cambridge or Oxford), a setting that reminds me of the Inspector Lewis TV series rather than Holmes–and it was a delight to see Holmes there.

Of course, these being stories of their time, there is also on occasion the tidbit to make the 21st century reader squirm a bit. In “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” (which my notes emphasize refers to busts of Napoleon, not the pastry!), specifically, the terms “simian” and “ape-like” are used to describe the villain–an Italian. Although Doyle evidently had an interest in phrenology (see The Hound of the Baskervilles), and could perhaps just be using this to emphasize the evil nature of the character, the knowledge that many people of the time had an anti-Italian bias, makes me think this plays a factor. Squirmy…but also illustrative of the period. For that matter, the Holmes stories also often illustrate the limitations placed on the women in the era. (Examples here are “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” and “The Adventure of the Second Stain.”)

All in all, I enjoyed making my way through the collection, but am more than happy to take a bit of a break from Holmes. Apparently I’m not a true Holmesian! (On the other hand it was quite fun to recognize references or stories used in the most recent series of Sherlock, references I had not previously known.)

Week’s End Notes (20)

  • A few months ago, I would have said I was having a pretty decent reading year–both quality and quantity of books I’m reading. But lately, I feel like I’m getting nothing read. It’s not even a reading slump, it’s just my total fault–I’m picking up the internet instead of the book. Ahem. I’ll blame the time change. (AKA apparently 5:00 a.m. is now “sleeping in.”) And since I’m still thinking my way through my most recent book finished (and not likely to get any others done for another week or so), I thought I might take the easy way out: bookish survey from The Classics Club. But when I started to go through the list, I realized that a) I didn’t have answers for every question, and b) those I did, I was often too wordy. I wouldn’t want to read my own post, much less subject others to it. So I thought I might perhaps just pick and choose a few instead.
  • #2b. I’ve read 6 of the numbered 125 items on my list, or 13.75 total novels/plays on my list. So I have some work to do. I keep getting distracted by other books that aren’t on my list–many of which could have been in a different version of my list, were I to revise. Or for that matter, which are on one of my other (many) project lists. But you know what? I don’t actually care, so long as I keep reading awesome books. (Mixed success to date, but…) And every time I look over my list I am inspired again to read from it.
  • #8. Something I find interesting is how many blog posts I’ve seen deal with difficulty with or intimidation by certain books. And question #8, “What book are you avoiding?” AKA “What books is intimidating?” I know that a lot of the books on these lists ARE difficult or require a lot of WORK (Joyce, Shakespeare, for instance: see Amanda didn’t include Ulysses), but what I’m really wondering is whether by assigning something the arbitrary label “classic” we don’t also subconsciously automatically equate it with something difficult, regardless of its actual nature. How often does someone express surprise at how “readable” a particular classic is!
  • #6. For not reading very many of my CC books yet, I’ve managed to find some real winners. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion provided me with a whole new appreciation for his The Lord of the Rings and the depth of the imaginary world he created. Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose was incredibly engaging, considering all the theology/church history inserted. But it was William Faulkner who blew me away with As I Lay Dying. So of course I don’t have any more Faulkner on my list. That means, of course, #35, that I wish I had more Faulkner on my list. Anything.
  • #7. But there’s still so much to look forward to: Les Misérables. Wives and Daughters. The Turn of the Screw. 2666. Some of the books do have a sort of “obligatory” feel – I added Don Quixote because I’ve never finished it (well…I read Part 1, which was originally the first book and Part 2 was the sequel. But never more than a few chapters of Part 2. Which is supposed to be the better part.). And the Greeks–the actual, capital-C Classics. I know they’re not really difficult, but I’m not currently excited by them. So I might try to read some next year. Because I can be contrary.
  • #48. It’s funny, I feel like I’ve been reading “classic” literature forever (I recall asking the school librarian in 6th grade for a classic recommendation), but not only do I not recall my first classic (#9)–although my first children’s classic was almost certainly Little House on the Prairie–I don’t feel like I’ve actually made it through all that many. I have a record, more or less complete, of the books I’ve read since my sophomore year in high school (so 17 years-long or so), and there was a big swath of time when it was mostly mysteries or rereads. And my reading pace slowed dramatically when I went to college. (Unless one counts Concrete Masonry Handbook (or something like that). Which one doesn’t. Did I actually read that anyway?) That’s why I have such a LONG LIST (#1). Plus all the other project lists.
  • #28. One non-regret–no, I wouldn’t want to revise my list this way–but I think I could call this project list a parallel list–Children’s Classics. Oh, those wonderful books–I’ve been discovering stories I didn’t even know I missed. I don’t think I can truly cite a favorite. Anne of Green Gables has long been a strong contender, as have the Little House books, but I’ve also discovered the delight of the Moomins and the wordplay of The 13 Clocks. And I’ve only just begun that journey.
  • And now I swerve from the survey. For one of my own. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I thought I’d read children’s classics again in January (round 3!), and although I’ve somehow found myself involved in an informal Don Quixote RAL that overlaps that timeframe (oops), I’m still planning on children’s classics. I was browsing my shelves last night, thinking about classics I’ve read already, when I came across an old–my grandma’s brother’s–copy of Treasure Island. (My grandma is 93 and her brother was 12 years older, so it’s old.) And I thought, maybe that for a January RAL. But I’ve also thought–maybe Pinocchio. (Which has the merit of being on my Classics Club list.) The question: is there anyone interested in either? Not both, I don’t think I could manage both–but if there were strong interest in one or the other, I might make it a RAL title. I’m not absolutely set in any direction. But January will be for Children’s Classics. (And Don Quixote.)

Reread: The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hounder of the Baskervilles 1st Edition CoverThe Hound of the Baskervilles
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
1902, Scotland

But it was not the sight of her body, nor yet was it that of the body of Hugo Baskerville lying near her, which raised the hair upon the heads of these three daredevil roysterers, but it was that, standing over Hugo, and plucking at his throat, there stood a foul thing, a great, black beast, shaped like a hound, yet larger than any hound that ever mortal eye has rested upon. (Ch. 2)

When I first read The Hound of the Baskervilles last fall, I couldn’t help but compare it to The Castle of Otranto, the grandfather of the Gothic novel. This year, at a further remove from my reading of Otranto, it is less that specific novel that I am reminded of and more of the general idea of “ghost story.” Certainly, at least, the legend of the Baskerville family–that of a diabolical hound that killed the blackguard Hugo Baskerville–would all on its own be a perfect campfire story.

The deliciously spine-tingling atmosphere of the Baskerville legend continues throughout the short mystery, with a gloomy, autumnal setting in the moors; eerie, unexplained sounds filling the air; and an escaped convict just to complicate things. It is only a little too bad that this is a Holmes mystery and so therefore the end seems a bit of a sharp contrast–all must be explained by light of day in Holmes’s stark logic. And really, for being a mystery, it is the atmosphere that keeps me returning. Although I don’t foresee myself rereading again next year, it does seem that visits with some of the movie adaptations may perhaps be in order.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is my third read for this year’s R.I.P. Although several people expressed interest in reading it with me a while back, the only post I’ve seen so far is Christine’s at The Moonlight Reader – let me know if I missed any!

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