Sunday, March 7, 2010

Children's Books Were So Great When I Was A Kid

There are alot of political posters up around the streets of Adelaide at the moment. There is an election on the way, you see. The problem is that many of the posters somehow manage to be so mind-bogglingly offensive that I find the best way for me to avoid a nervous breakdown is to ignore all of them. But the other day one caught my eye. I was driving Meattrain's car, minding my own business, when suddenly I found myself narrowly avoiding slamming on the breaks.

"Was there just a political candidate named after a Dr Seuss character? Did anyone else see this?"

Of course no-one else saw the poster in question because they never do. It actually turned to be someone whose last name was Lomax, not Lorax and I was pretty disappointed. But it got me thinking about books I read as a child, something I do pretty often. I don't know what children's books are like these days, but when I was a kid they were pretty freaking great.

First, I would like to refer you to a wonderful tome called 'The King, The Mice and The Cheese' by Nancy and Eric Gurney. Now, my housemates will be familiar with this particular work because I regularly use it as an allegory for modern life. See, the story went as follows: There is this king, right. And he loves cheese. Can't get enough cheese. But then all these mice come into his palace and start eating it. Needless to say, the king is not happy with this situation and he orders in a bunch of cats to get rid of the mice. BUT THEN his palace is overrun with cats! Oh no! So, he orders some dogs to get rid of the cats. But then, the same problem only with dogs! I'm not sure how many different animals the poor king went through but he ended up at elephants. The only way he could think of to get rid of the elephants? Mice! And look at that, he is back at square one. What ever will he do? The book ends with the king deciding to share his cheese with the mice, and you see all the little mice eating cheese at little tiny tables. Which is nice from a moral point of view, but probably not the best way to deal with a rodent infestation.

Another book I find myself referencing in day to day conversation is a story that was called 'Little Black Sambo'. Now, when I was older I learned that this was a pretty racist name for a children's book, but I really loved the story. It was about this Indian kid whose name was Little Black Sambo (I feel like this story has since been re-released with a different name for the main character). He was wandering through the jungles of India when he comes across some ferocious tigers. The last thing he wants is to be eaten alive, so he plays a little trick on the tigers. He starts talking to them and slagging them off, but he is hidden in the bushes. The tigers get pretty angry about this. Oh, did I mention the tigers could talk? They could talk okay. Somehow, Little Black Sambo tricks the tigers into chasing each other around a tree so fast that they melt into a big pile of melted butter. Naturally, the kid collects all the melted butter to take home and everyone in the village makes enough pancakes to last them a long time. Bizarre, but heartwarming. Sort of.

Moving on. Perhaps the only book from my childhood that I actually still find myself directly quoting is 'Far Out Brussel Sprout' and all the others in that series. I loved these books. They were made up of a series of very childish rhymes and stories, which, judging by the things I try to pass off as writing, probably shaped the way I think quite a lot. The one I remember the most vividly went something along the lines of "Hasten hasten get the basin! Ker plop, get the mop". I think there were a few lines between those two, but I sadly don't remember them.

There will be a bunch of honourable mentions in this entry, but there is one that I can't get away with not giving it's own paragraph and that is Grug. I wouldn't have included the Grug series because I feel it pretty much goes without saying that I read and loved these books. I was a child in Australia, after all. But I thought I better mention it on the basis that I actually met Ted Prior. He came to my primary school when I was in year one (and again when I was in year two!) and gave us a bit of a motivational talk. Later, he signed one of my Grug books. I would include a picture of that one, but it is somewhere in the depths of the childhood possessions at my family home, which I have not visited in over a year. Hopefully it is still in good enough condition that I can get it back one day.

Honourable Mentions: 'Selby Speaks', Hundreds of old Tin-Tin comics that were all in French, Dr Seuss (obviously), A series of books that I think were called 'Young Adult Fact Finder' which I totally read over and over because I really love facts, Mr McGee Goes To Sea (apparently there is now a 'Mr Mcgee and the Big Bag of Bread'. I keep seeing it in the post office and wanting to buy it)

-Smackie Onassis

1 comment:

  1. Oh god finally. You have no idea how much trouble this was to publish. I actually had pictures of all the book covers, but APPARENTLY BLOGGER DOESN'T WANT ME TO BE HAPPY.