Sunday, May 30, 2010

Discussion: How Do You Remember Children's Books?

Instead of reviewing a 52 year old children's book that I just read for the first time (Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce -- I really liked it and sobbed at the end), I thought I would put to you a question that came to mind as I was thinking about this book.

How do you remember children's books?  Not meaning your technique for remembering the books but rather do you remember them (in general) as being funny?  Exciting?  Touching on taboo topics?  Escapist or just like your own life?

I am wondering because a few of the children's books I've been reading for the first time lately seem awfully dull compared to what I remember this level of chapter books to be when I read them as a child.  They may be magical but they aren't incredibly adventurous.  Have I just built things up in my mind?  Were they more exciting when I was young and didn't have the world experience that I do now?  Am I just picking up boring British children's books now?  (Just kidding!  I love these books!)  Is Beverly Cleary that much more exciting than L.M. Boston?  Or would I be surprised if I went back and read Judy Blume's Superfudge now?  I'm truly perplexed and would love to hear what you think!

Looking through rose-colored reading glasses,


  1. I think it's partly the case that as an adult you look at books with a completely different perspective to when you were a child. Plus the style of books and writing changes - you can always tell a book that was written fifty years or more ago because the language is so very different, so old-fashioned.

    A couple of years ago I re-read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, a book I really loved when I was eight years old when I stumbled across it in the library. It's still good, but not as good as it was in my memory - which made it out to be far more mysterious and frightening than it turned out to be. Although the incident that always stuck in my mind, of the children all throwing a ball against a wall in some kind of synchronised play, and the child who dropped the ball and scuttled inside in fear, is exactly as I remembered it. And the concept of 'the infinite worlds of maybe' is something else that stayed with me.

  2. I think the durability of children's books varies so widely between different authors! Some of my favorite books from childhood have completely lost the glimmer when reread them now, whereas others retain it. I've been trying to pinpoint the quality that makes kids' books good for adults too, and I just have no idea what it is.

  3. I do think it is harder to find the magic when you are an adult, which is why I tend to shy away from reading them on my own or revisiting favorites. I don't want to ruin them. I'll wait and "rediscover" them with my son ... I think it helps to have a young person's viewpoint if you're going to read them!

  4. I remember the books I read as a kid being wonderful but if I read them now they might not seem so. I don't enjoy reading YA/kids books as an adult, so it probably wouldn't feel the same for me!

  5. I'm lucky in that my memory is terrible, so a lot of the time it's like reading the books for the first time. Often, all I'll remember is if I enjoyed it or not. I think that when I read them with my daughter, see her reactions, the magic is still there. Adult are looking at them through a whole different set of experiences. I, for example, find the Boxcar Children fairly boring and slightly odd, but my daughter really enjoyed them when we were reading them last year.

  6. Tom's Midnight Garden is one of my favorites. Sigh. Thanks.

  7. Tracy - And yet, children fifty years ago were mesmerized by those books too. But what you experienced with A Wrinkle in Time is totally what I was thinking about. Books like that seem so revolutionary and they change your whole little world.

    Jenny - It's a mysterious quality, isn't it? I think that humor and magic are big parts of it.

    Jenners - We've been ruining them a bit by trying some of the chapter books a little too early. Then Z is bored because he can't relate and I get uncomfortable. There's a lot of timing involved!

    Marie - I think you're lucky that you will always keep your childhood impressions.

    Carol - I'm the same way! Most of the books from the past are vague impressions or I might remember a particular scene but I rarely remember whole plots.

    Jenny - I totally loved it. I can't believe I never knew of it before now!