Tag Archives: Carolyn Keene

But Mummy read that!

What will today’s young readers want to force their – as yet unborn – children to read? Or if they are really understanding parents (rather like me!) simply sigh over and decide that maybe XXX is a bit old-fashioned and since there are so many lovely new books, they will just let Little Darling read those instead.

With it being Roald Dahl day later this week, I was thinking about an article I read, which said that it’s mainly the parents who favour Dahl’s books now. Because they were the books they themselves read as children. (With me it was the other way round. I read Dahl to keep abreast of what Son and his peers liked.)

So what didn’t I force Offspring to read? Primarily the ‘real’ classics. The books that were pretty ancient even in my time, like The Three Musketeers and Ivanhoe, or Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I could almost forgive them for having no interest at all in those books.

But more ‘contemporary’ books like Pippi Longstocking were required reading. Or so I thought. Reading which we got round by watching the films and the television series. And then I discovered that Pippi was a bit of a bully, and nowhere near as funny as I remembered her to be.

Perhaps that’s how Roald Dahl’s books appear to children now? I can recall how appalled I was, seeing George’s Marvellous Medicine on stage. It really brought home the awfulness of those books. To this day I can’t bear Willy Wonka.

It won’t be long until a whole Harry Potter generation start to forcefeed their children wizards and witches and wands. Those readers are already beginning to pop up as authors (it’s probably quicker to write a book than to give birth to a new reader), having been inspired by Harry and Co.

If you don’t read Dahl now, you are very likely enjoying Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid or Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum. How long until they are the parents’ choice? Thirty years, maybe.

I get the impression that Enid Blyton still works, even without any arm twisting. I expected Daughter to like the Nancy Drew books and bought two with lovely period covers, and they are still sitting on a shelf in pristine condition.

The thing is, Mother-of-witch never suggested books to me. I read all of hers. There weren’t many, and I didn’t own a lot myself, so anything that was available got attention. Hers were mainly what girls had in the 1930s, so neither terribly classic or incredibly modern. They were just books.

Jules Verne, Till jordens medelpunkt

Perhaps if my childhood books had been in a language they could read, Offspring would have foraged and found something to enjoy.

Yeah, that’s probably it. Wrong language. Not wrong books.

And to go on some more…

about those libraries that we need, or aren’t entitled to, depending on point of view.

The Resident IT Consultant takes things seriously. One day – I forget how – we ended up discussing whether you get that shades of grey book in libraries. Oh, I remember why. I read in the paper that you wouldn’t want it from a library, because you’d be too ashamed, facing a librarian with your questionable choice of reading material.

So now that the Resident IT Consultant has his fresh, new library card, he felt the urge to explore whether you do get it in the library. I issued a prohibition on him actually going in and asking. I could just see how that would end badly. So he researched it online. It’s not an exact science, apparently, but it would seem Stockport libraries have around twenty copies of the ‘must read’ book of 2012.

Because he’s a thorough kind of man, he balanced this by checking how many Bring Up the Bodies we have in these parts. Also around twenty. Nice and even. Crap. Or quality.

It’s good, isn’t it? You can have anything to read. And why not? (The Retired Children’s Librarian in her day objected to Nancy Drew and similar, and she was entitled to do so.) I was quite heartened early on, when noticing that Stockport has Mills & Boon on its shelves. And why shouldn’t it?

I’m sure librarians are the same as doctors. They’ve seen it all before. And as someone commented on the letters page in the paper, these days you check books out yourself, just like in Sainsbury’s. You can blush at the machine, but it – too – has probably seen it all before.

PS I went into Stockport yesterday. Was approached by twenty-something couple inquiring where the library was. If you were prejudiced, you’d have said they didn’t look like library users. So maybe you just can’t tell.

You decide!

I am fairly sure I was eight. The Retired Children’s Librarian had sent me another carefully chosen book for my birthday. But I just didn’t fancy The Count of Monte Cristo. I really really wanted The Three Musketeers. I also knew that the edition of Monte Cristo was a fairly expensive one.

So I made plans, and walked into town, one day soon after my birthday. One did things like that in those days. Another thing one did, at least in Sweden, was freely exchange books in bookshops. No need for a receipt, nor that the book had been bought from that shop. A book is a book, and can be resold if it is unread and undamaged.

I was very lucky. My unwanted Monte Cristo covered both the cheaper Three Musketeers plus an additional smaller book. Maybe Enid Blyton or Nancy Drew or some such volume.

Then I walked home again.

Was it right, though? Should I have taken the giver’s choice of book?

(I have to add here, that I obviously got round to the dashing Count later, and loved him. I just wanted my musketeers right then. And making the exchange was my only means of getting myself a musketeer.)

I was reminded of this determined eight-year-old, when an author mentioned an event she had done at a school recently. She did it for free for personal reasons, and was duly thanked with a lovely big bunch of flowers. And all she could think of was that those flowers would have paid for a pair of jeans, or something else useful.

If a school can run to flowers, they could run to a small gift voucher at M&S instead. We can’t always make the best use of flowers, whether or not we are in need of new jeans.

So who decides? Giver, or receiver? Is there a right way?

Children like writing wish lists, and we all know that mine would have had musketeers on it. Although these days children ask for increasingly expensive things, so we’ve come some way from simple books. But I often think of my elderly friend here in the Manchester Swedish group who got fed up with her grandchildren’s lists. ‘I decide what you get, and you will be grateful!’ is what she told them.

Quite right. But then they weren’t penniless adults. Nor were their parents.