Stacked in Our Favor

Thoughts about libraries, education, children's literature, writing, art and being connected

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Classical Children’s Lit Malady

I have always loved the classic children’s works written by the likes of Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, L. M. Montgomery and their contemporaries. I love the films bringing them to life, especially if they have Shirley Temple in them.

So I have never found it easy to hear someone talk about Scarlet Fever as a treatable, curable malady. The very words bring about visions of sick rooms, drawn bed clothes, the solemn ticking of a grandfather clock and shadows.

A few weeks ago I was exposed to Scarlet Fever. Last week I battled a serious bout of strep throat. This morning I awoke covered in red dots.

After a trip to the doctor, I have been given flight clearance to mingle as much as I want. The course of antibiotics make me safe to be around whether I have a case of Scarlet Fever or an allergy to the medication.

Still, I find the scenes from children’s literature, the classic and its poorer cousin, dance wildly in my head. The drawings of Edward Gorey taunt me and make me want to have that chocolate bar instead of resisting. Life is short and all that.

Children’s literature can uplift, inspire and inform. These old images, however, are not helping me put this into perspective. On the other hand, seen in a providential light, the images so skillfully wrought by our writing predecessors serve not only to make me wary, but also to incite gratitude. Looking back on the works of the foremothers of children’s literature, I can feel inspired by the deftly written story. At the same time, I am grateful yet again that I live in this time. Grateful for the present of a world in which scarlet fever need not be written in capital letters or dealt with in fear. Grateful for a world in which there is the medication to treat the malady.  Very importantly, I am grateful for the fact that I have health insurance.


Jim Hill said...

I'm glad you have health insurance, and I hope those little red dots go away soon. Else you'd have to change the title of your blog to the Purple Glasses and Polka Dots Club.

I've been reading some older, though less classic, children's books lately as well. A raid upon my mother's basement, and the almost forgotten bookcase there, yielded some of the books I remember as a kid. Some hold up pretty well, others not so much.

The best of the lot has been Bennet Cerf's Book of Riddles, 1961 edition. The jokes are as bad as ever, but getting to read them to my 3 year old's fresh ears is a joy.

Q: What's big, red and eats rocks?
A: A big, red rock eater!

purple glasses club said...


I'm just hoping the kids won't want to play "connect the dots."

It is interesting to revisit books we loved years ago and see how they hold up. When I took the Newbery course through the ALSC last year we read through a great number of older award winners. It was really a mind shifting experience. They didn't all hold up equally. Then again, people had divergent feelings about which ones held up and which didn't.

Reading older books with today's youth can be fun or not. Glad you are finding it delightful to read with your little guy. The jokes you supplied is priceless.