Classic Children's Literature · RAL · Reading · The Classics Club

Coming Soon: Classic Children’s Lit Event, 5

2017-ral-original

I’ve been more absent from here lately than I’d like–it seems like February is just a month that I don’t get along with. But now it’s March, the sun is shinning (and it’s supposed to be half-way warm this week!), and that means the 5th edition of the Classic Children’s Literature Event is just around the corner: April–less than a month away! I can’t believe this is the 5th year.

alice-original

As in years past, I will be reading an optional readalong title. I really waffled over what to pick this year, but finally opted for one of the runners up from last year’s poll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s been many, many years since I last/first read this–I believe in fourth grade, so I don’t remember it all that well other than that’s is odd, something that must surely appeal to many, as evidenced by the recent movie adaptations (confession: I haven’t actually seen them). Although I have an illustrated version that also contains Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, I decided to pick up The Annotated Alice from the library. Still a coin toss as to which book I’ll read from.

Event Basics

  • During the month of April, 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 April to gather posts so that we may share as we go.
  • The optional RAL title: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. (Optional: also read Through the Looking-Glass. I’m guessing I won’t get through both.) I plan on discussion the weekend of April 21-23.
  • 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 1967. This will still allow a lot of options, and will hopefully avoid the “but what is a classic” dilemma! (And yes, 1967 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 April).

Most important: Have fun!

Please let me–and other participants–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.

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 300px

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 250px

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 200px

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017 300px

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017 250px

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017 200px

Happy reading!

Participants:

Image sources: The event logo illustration is “Merry Christmas” from The Way to Wonderland (1917, Mary Stewart), illustrated  by Jessie Wilcox Smith (1863-1935). The RAL logo illustration is from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865, Lewis Carroll), 1907 edition illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939).

Classic Children's Literature

Open to Suggestions – Children’s Classics

Yellow Rose Bouquet
Happy Valentines Day!

I’ve long had pleasent memories associated with Valentines Day, although these are the memories of childhood rather than more mature associations. My mom would always–still does, actually–make frosted heart cookies, double stacked–yummy! My brother and I could always, growing up, count on a chocolate heart or a small bundle of wrapped chocolates from the local candy shop. And for several years, a new paperback as well. I still have my first copy of Pride and Prejudice, which arrived on Valentines of 8th grade. (Though it is considerably more visably battered now.) Before that, it was always a YA or Middle Grade book, almost always award winning. My mom has good taste.

So it shouldn’t be any surprise that on Valentines Day, my thoughts always turn to favorite books. This year I’ve been thinking about the upcoming Classic Children’s Literature Event (April! Just around the corner…), and when not panicked about getting my act together to get ready, I’ve been musing over what to suggest as a readalong title. And I must admit, nothing in particular is really calling to me this year. Sure, I have a great long list (and if pressed today, I would say the Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, which have the advantage of being available in an English translation online), but I just haven’t settled on the right book. So I’m throwing it open to suggestions: is there a children’s classic (at least 50 years old, please) that you would love to read–either for the first time, or revisiting–this year? I’ll take suggestions until the end of the month and announce the RAL title at the start of March.

Happy Reading!

Classic Children's Literature

Beatrix Potter Tales Part 3

Oh dear, it’s been so long since I read the rest of the Twenty-three Tales by Beatrix Potter, finishing up shortly after the end of the Classic Children’s Literature Event. But I do want to post something, and fortunately, I took notes as I read. Really, I have no excuse for taking so long, but just a sort of writing avoidance. I seem to be finding that I either have to a) write something up the moment I finish a book or b) sneak up on myself to write a blog post. That last one’s tricky.

The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918)

I feel like our main character is really Timmy Willie, the country mouse. But no mind. This is a tale of a city mouse and a country mouse. Timmy Willie accidentally visits town and is quite out of place—the noise keeps him awake, the cat frightens him, and the food not at all to his taste. He is much more at home in the country, with his gardens and quiet. He returns home and eventually Johnny returns the visit, but just as Timmy Willie is unsuited to the city, Johnny is unsuited to the country.

 

The Tale of Mr. Tod - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Mr. Tod (1912)

Another tale that seems a bit misnamed, for while Mr. Tod is part of it, and the most exciting action is at his house, it seems to be as much about Tommy Brock and the efforts of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny to recover Benjamin’s little ones from the oven where the badger, Tommy Brock, has hidden them. It is thus a darker tale than the preceding, both for the greater danger the bunnies are in at the hands of the badger than any we have seen yet, and because the illustrations themselves are largely in darker colors than typically used. But it is also quite amusing, to see Mr. Tod’s machinations to get at Tommy Brock and Tommy Brock’s pretending to sleep that he might get the better of Mr. Tod.

Notably, this is the first of these I’ve read with black and white line illustrations as well as watercolors. I read the tales in the order they are numbered in my set, which is not strictly chronological, and it seems whoever ordered them put all the stories containing black and white line illustrations (they still have watercolor images, just not as many) at the back half.

The Tale of Pigling Bland - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Pigling Bland (1913)

We return to the story of a good little animal who due to outside forces finds himself on an adventure. In this case it is Pigling Bland—who doesn’t misbehave, but due to circumstances—the frivolity of his brother, a mixup of papers, and some mistaken turns, winds up lost and in a farmer’s clutches, where he must not only escape, he must rescue a girl-pig, Pig-Wig, from a future as bacon and ham.

It does seem, perhaps, that Pig-Wig may be nearly as frivolous as his brother, so one wonders in the end if Pigling Bland has gained anything? Other than, of course, female companionship.

Although there are many of these tales that only barely ring familiar, really, I’m not sure I ever read this one!

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding (1908)

We follow up with Tom Kitten & his family – Mrs. Tabitha (an “anxious parent”!) is trying to place her kittens in the cupboard to keep them out of trouble while she bakes, but she has lost Tom Kitten. While she searches, Mittens and Moffit also disappear, and she doesn’t find them until a neighbor, Mrs. Ribby, appears and searching together they find the two girls, who have seen two enormous rats—Anna Maria and Samuel Whiskers—running about stealing kitchen supplies. The rats have Tom and are preparing him as a dumpling, when John Joiner (rat terrier, I believe) shows up, and the rats run away.

Despite yet another example of a story in which a young animal is in danger of becoming someone else’s dinner, it really was a rather delightful, fun story. And, it should be noted, Miss Potter makes an appearance. I don’t think this is the first time, but it is the first by name. (The others she has just referred to herself, “I.”)

The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan (1905)

Ribby, whom we met in Samuel Whiskers, invites Duchess to tea, and promises to serve a delicious pie. Duchess accepts, but then fears it will be a mouse pie, which she couldn’t eat, so she attempts to switch it out with a veal and ham pie she made, only things don’t quite go to plan, in a most amusing way.

I must say, poor Ribby! It would seem she needs better options for guests. Though I quite understand Duchess’s reluctance to eat mouse pie, her antics in trying to switch out the pies—well, no wonder at the end she feels silly!

The Tale of Ginger and Pickles - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909)

An economics tale! Ginger (cat) and Pickles (terrier) run the same-name shop, and they do rather well as far as quantity of sales—10 times Tabitha Twitchit!—, but as most of their business is on credit, they never seem to get paid. But the taxes must, so they are forced to close up shop and take up new occupation (trapping for Ginger, gamesman for Pickles). The community is dismayed at the loss of the shop, for Tabitha raises her rates and doesn’t take credit, and other options are scarce. Eventually, Sally Henny Penny reopens the shop, much to everyone’s delight, for while she won’t take credit, she is less frightening than a dog or cat and has good bargains.

It is delightful to see so many critters from previous stories in this one—more in the illustrations than show up even in the text. The reader paying good attention to Potter’s illustrations is always rewarded.

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (1930)

“The Owl and the Pussycat”

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

This is the longest of the tales and the only one with chapter divisions; it is nonetheless delightful and diverting, even with far fewer of Potter’s always charming illustrations. Inspired by the Edward Lear poem “The Owl and the Pussycat,” it is the story of the risks of a young pig going alone to market, for although he may be good and sensible, he may not be invulnerable to harm from others. Sure enough, danger finds young Pig Robinson, and there is very real risk he may be—gasp—eaten!

Although Potter has never shied away from the realities of life—that many of her critters may be eaten, either by humans or other predators—here she has one line in particular that is both forthright and amusing: “They led prosperous uneventful lives, and their end was bacon.” (Ch. 1)

With the greater length of this story, Potter has plenty of time to set the scenery—I was truly transported to not just the countryside found in so many of her tales, but to the bustling sea-harbor of Stymouth. I wonder what else she might have done had she turned her attention more to longer stories.

The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit - Beatrix Potter

The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit (1906)

A very short little moral tale: bad rabbit = consequences! It is a very simple text, as if it is designed not only to impart a lesson (not sharing could lead to bad things), but as if it is meant as an early reader. Quite in contrast to some of the other tales, with their more complex vocabulary and structure (e.g., The Flopsy Bunnies or Little Pig Robinson). It is also one of the earlier stories, as is the following.

The Story of Miss Moppet - Beatrix PotterThe Story of Miss Moppet (1906)

Another very short, simple text, although with delightful illustrations—the expressions! It is a cute story, however, without the moral of the preceding, but rather a vignette of a cat-and-mouse game! Quite charming

Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes - Beatrix Potter

Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes and (1917)

Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes - Beatrix Potter

Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes (1922)

Two short collections of nursery-rhymes, some I recognize from elsewhere (e.g., “Three Blind Mice,” “Goosey, Goosey, Gander”), others by reference, and some I believe to be Potter’s inventions. Although charming in their own right—and easily learnable to recite, with their patterns and rhymes–I’m not sure but that perhaps Potter used them as a raison d’être for more of her imaginative illustrations, which really seem to be the stars in these books.

Classic Children's Literature

A Farewell to April

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2016 - original

April has come and gone, and with it the Fourth Children’s Classic Literature Event. As usual, it was a fun–if fast!–month of revisiting old favorites and meeting new ones. Although I didn’t quite make it through all the Beatrix Potter tales (I will! I’ll just take some time in May for them…), I was introduced to a number of books that were completely new to me thanks to the posts by other participants. So many new possibilities to explore!

As far as I am aware, the following lists all of the posts from the second half of the month – please let me know if I missed you! (It’s very possible, as I switch between tablet and laptop, e-mail notification and feed reader.)

Anastacia from Rambling Reviews:
Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott
The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza:
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Carol from Jouney and Destination:
A Little Bush Maid by Mary Grant Bruce
Golden Fiddles by Mary Grant Bruce

Cleo from Classical Carousel
Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner

Denise from News from Hobbiton:
Some of her favorite children’s stories

Lynn from Smoke and Mirrors:
Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

Plethora from Plethora of Books:
Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright

Amanda from Simpler Pastimes:
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner
Beatrix Potter Stories (group 2)

Not bad! Without actually going back to check, this year’s event may have had the most books read of any to date. (And I know I’m not the only one who didn’t get everything read they had hoped.)

Thanks to everyone who participated and Happy Reading!

Classic Children's Literature

Beatrix Potter Tales, Part 2

Ah, April is flying from me! I’m only just now getting my post for the second group of Beatrix Potter tales written up. Unlike the first group, which contained two I remembered well, these were mostly unrecollected, even those I’ve had the longest.

The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher - Beatrix PotterThe Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (1906)

This tale of a frog and his fishing misadventures was completely adorable! I’m really growing to love Potter’s writing – while her illustrations are wonderful, in their detail and accuracy, the way she tells the tales is equally delightful. Here, I loved the turn in the story – the suspense and surprise when the trout catches Jeremy. Her use of onomatopoeia, again, is lovely.

A GREAT big enormous trout cam up–ker-pflop-p-p-p! with a splash–and it seized Mr. Jeremy with a snap, “Ow! Ow! Ow!”–and then it turned and dived down to the bottom of the pond!

The Tale of Tom Kitten - Beatrix PotterThe Tale of Tom Kitten (1907)

An amusing little story that I didn’t recall at all. Mrs. Tabitha Twitchet is having friends to dinner, so she cleans and dresses her kittens then, foolishly, sends them out into the garden while she finishes preparations. Of course, being kittens unused to clothes, they soon manage to burst their buttons and lose their clothes to the Puddleducks (first mention!). Banishment to the bedroom ensues. I am not sure why the title only names Tom–although he is the one that is too fat and bursts his buttons, they all lose their clothes.

 

The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck - Beatrix PotterThe Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck (1908)

Potter, in this charming little tale, illustrates the phrase “bird-brained” very well! Jemima, understandably, wants to sit on her eggs rather than letting the farmer give them to the hen for setting. So she seeks out a good location for a nest, and finds one in the “summer house” of a very well-dressed, whiskered gentleman. Poor Jemima is so naïve – or dense! – that she doesn’t recognize him for a fox or that the many feathers in his house must surely have come from some other unfortunate birds… Rather than mischievous or disobedient, this protagonist is simply foolish.

 

The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies - Beatrix PotterThe Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909)

Another return to the world of Peter and Benjamin. Apparently Peter Rabbit manages to grow up responsibly – his lesson learned – but Benjamin Bunny does not. Both hinted at, of course, in Benjamin’s tale. Interestingly, it would seem that Flopsy doesn’t do much better than Benjamin, despite the fact that she was one of the obedient little rabbits in the first tale. Obedient, but not wise, perhaps, as it seems she is as poor a household manager as Benjamin.

It would seem the feud between the McGregors and the rabbits is long-standing. Of course. In this tale, though, they are NOT in his garden, just his rubbish bin. But it is an interesting image, that of a large family reduced to depending on help from in-laws and rubbish piles. An image of poverty in these otherwise gentle books. And an apt illustration of “improvident.” I think these rabbits could fit into Dickens… And how lovely, that it is Mrs. Tittlemouse that is the resourceful, problem solving one!

I noticed the effectiveness of Potter’s introduction of some new vocabulary in this one–not only does she do a great job of introducing “soporific,” but it is reinforced later in the story.

 

The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse (1910)

Ah, a story of frustration if ever there was one! I do feel for Mrs. Tittlemouse–all those uninvited guests!–, although I do wonder if perhaps she isn’t maybe just a bit too fastidious. Cleaning while the guests are there can be rude…even if they invited themselves in! (Come to think of it, a lot of impoliteness in this one.)

Another one with lots of great sounds in this one – the buzzing from the bees, the “tiddly, widdly” of Mr. Jackson.

 

The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes (1911)

A tale of a good little squirrel – and prudent. But sometimes bad things happen to good people, as when less prudent and more foolish squirrels become jealous and turn on the wiser one. But there is also a bit of an unexpected turn, in that this story turns to domestic matters. Mrs. Chippy Hackee has been abandoned by her husband–as Mrs. Goody Tiptoes believes has happened to her (though Timmy is just stuck down the hole in the tree). And Mrs. Hackee daren’t go down the tree after the pair for her husband bites. Sure enough, it will rain, the tree will fall, and Chippy will learn his lesson, but it suggests yet another portrait of a human character, the neglectful, selfish spouse, in animal form.

It is interesting how Potter is able to through these stories give a sense of human stories that might seem too grown up for young children were they not in the form of animal characters.

Despite the rapidly dwindling month (and available free-time), I do hope to finish reading these charming tales before the end of April. They have all been such a delight to read–and look at.

Classic Children's Literature · RAL

Completed: Emil and the Detectives

Emil and the DetectivesEmil and the Detectives [Emil und die Detektive]
Erich Kästner
(1929, Germany)
Eileen Hall, translator
Walter Trier, illustrations

’Oh he’ll like Berlin, I’m sure of that,’ declared Mrs. Wirth from the depths of the wash-basin. ‘It’s just made of children. We went there the year before last for the skittle club outing. My word, but it’s a noisy place! Do you know—some of the streets were as light at night as during the day. And the traffic! My, what a lot of cars!’ (Chapter 1)

Emil and the Detectives starts out deceptively, Emil carrying the water jug and his mother washing her client’s hair—a scene of domestic tranquility, nothing of adventures in sight. Yet this opening chapter, slow by current standards, is our introduction to Emil and his character: he is obedient and polite, determined to do right by his mother. Which is why it is so important to Emil, when the one thing she warns him against happens, losing the money she gives him for his grandmother, that he make it right. Especially since he feels particularly wronged; he didn’t lose the money, it was stolen from him after he fell asleep on the train, despite all his precautions, both to protect the money and stay awake. It is from this point that the story takes off; Emil soon meets up with a group of boys who upon learning his story are only too happy to help him chase down and trap the thief. His cousin, Pony, the only girl in the story, makes occasional appearances with her new bike—which she is only too eager to show off—functioning as messenger or go-between with Emil’s adult relatives. We also see other aspects of Emil’s character–his determination to right a wrong, a bit of temper (he nearly fights the first boy he meets), and a hint of mischief: he believes he can’t go to the police, because he chalked a statue at home and believes the Berlin police will surely learn of it and accuse him of stealing the money!

I’m really not quite sure what I expected from this classic from 1920s Germany. Perhaps more of a mystery, but the detective work in this story is tailing a known suspect, not discovering “whodunit.” Of course, this makes for an exciting adventure, and the reader never really cares that we know the thief already or that we feel fairly assured of a positive outcome. After all, there are still plenty of twists and turns and we can’t be sure, exactly, how the boys will manager to confront the thief and reclaim Emil’s money.

A German writer, Kästner would some years after writing this children’s tale watch the Nazis burn many of his books, including the sequel Emil and the Three Twins. But they didn’t include Emil and the Detectives, in part because of of its popularity. It’s been adapted for several film versions, including multiple German versions and the 1964 Disney adaptation, as well as a UK stage production.

Emil and the Detectives Readalong April 2016 - 300px wide

As well as reading this for the readalong, it also counts as one of my titles for the Books in Translation Challenge 2016.