Sunday, October 31, 2010

Guidelines for a Fresh-Eyed Reading of Kid/YA Classics

We've started our Cuci Mata ("washing of the eyes" in Indonesian) read of classic children's books. Once a month, we'll read a standalone novel written by a beloved author and tap into the power of communal vision. Let's ask ourselves:
  • When it comes to race, ethnicity, gender, and class, what stands the test of time
I don't want this exercise to become a scathing critique of dead authors, so I'm going to focus on the positive and look for the universal, timeless aspects of a novel that qualify it as a classic. You, however, might also want to ask: "What might the author (if alive) wish to change for today's young readers?"

Post a link to your review below and I'll compile. Here's our discussion of EMILY OF DEEP VALLEY, for example.

Next up:

December 1-7 An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

January 3-7 The Well-Wishers by Edward Eager

8 comments:

  1. I won't get to Emily this week, but I can already tell you that there's so much about so many of Alcott's books that makes me cringe when I read them as an adult. That's not to say that I don't appreciate her for creating Jo March and turning my imagination loose as a child, but she is very much a product of her time, for all she comes from an unconventional family.

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  2. Yes, these authors, like us, are products of their times, and that's why I've amended the challenge to focus on the positive. I don't want this to be a critique from the perspective of our time of theirs.

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  3. Mordena8:40 AM

    According to a recent biography, Louisa was less of a product of her time than you might think. She didn't even like Little Women, it just made money for her, and a lot of the moralizing stuff was to please an editor. She preferred her potboilers.

    Not an authority myself.

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  4. I really love An Old-Fashioned Girl! While the language and the ideas are very different from today, Alcott mapped out what she saw as the woman of the future. The quote that stands out for me is this (the context is when Polly and the other characters are looking at a statue that one of them is making of the woman of the future):

    "Strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-souled, and strong-bodied; that is why I made her larger than the miserable, pinched-up woman of our day. Strength and beauty must go together. Don't you think these broad shoulders can bear burdens without breaking down, these hands work well, these eyes see clearly, and these lips do something besides simper and gossip?"

    I think the really powerful thing about this book is that Alcott's vision for women has largely been achieved. I liked it so much that I'm using it as the epigraph for my book, which is based on the philosophy of Little Women.

    Sorry to get ahead of the discussion but I'm a serious Alcott lover! I'm reading Emily of Deep Valley right now and will comment on that soon.

    Sam
    livinglittlewomen.blogspot.com

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  5. I just finished reading a lesser edition of Emily of Deep Valley, because somehow I missed out as a child when I read Betsy-Tacy. I don't really understand Twitter or any of the words you just used, but can bloggers participate in this really fascinating project too?

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  6. Of course! Bloggers are cordially invited.

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  7. Hi Mitali,

    Here's my review (were we supposed to leave links here?)

    http://charlotteslibrary.blogspot.com/2010/11/emily-of-deep-valley-by-maud-hart.html

    I can't wait to see what others say!

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  8. Are you still looking for books? What about A LIGHT IN THE FOREST, by Conrad Richter? It was one of my favorites as a girl.

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