Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle, John of Gaunt's Hall

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Nesbit, Sewall, Wiggin

I re-read The Story of the Amulet, and E. Nesbit is still so, SO good. I hate that I didn't know her books when i was a child....that book is just so smart and clever and funny, and I love the Psammead in all his sandy, cranky glory.

On to the new books!

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, by Kate Douglas Wiggin.

What a nauseating load of bunk that book was! bleargh. it felt like Anne of Green Gables to me - in its talkative, artsy girl bringing sunshine and originality to a stuffy little town, but at least Wiggin has the decency not to flood us with too much moralizing. Rebecca got on my nerves, but the book was reasonably readable. I have to say I was creeped out by the way "Uncle Jerry" and "Mr Aladdin" admire Rebecca. Now, I am a devotee of James Kincaid, and Erotic Innocence changed my intellectual life. I am quite tough-skinned when it comes to pedophilia-related issues, but even *I* thought the way Mr Aladdin and Jerry go on and on about Rebecca's beauty and charm, when she's only 12 years old, was downright creepy.
ew.
other than that, nothing terribly surprising OR interesting to me about this book. American literature, especially for children, seems dreadfully pragmatic and puritanical. i find it unexciting.

Black Beauty, by Anna Sewall.
I'm ALREADY a total softie for animals. I'm a vegetarian, I don't buy/use leather, I try to shop cruelty free, I dote on three cats (one of whom is a foster), I recently rescued a terrifyingly large beetley thing from certain doom in my basement washtub-sink. I did NOT need to read about the horrors of the horse-using industries of the late 19th century.
I cringed my way through a lot of that book, because I HATE hearing about animals being hurt or killed.
I suppose I am glad it was written, if it affected the way people dealt with their horsies, but honestly, I don't ever want to read it again. Poor horses. The barn fire?! the death of poor Ginger? Shooting Rob Roy and Captain? it was horrifying!

I do have to wonder: is Black Beauty a children's book? If so: why?
The dustjacket notes compare it to Uncle Tom's Cabin, which is not a children's text. Black Beauty is a political tract, really, and it strikes me that most purchasers and users of horses are adults. There are, in fact, very few children in the book. So WHY is this a classic of children's lit? is it more of the old children-and-animals alliance?

this is worth thinking about. i've been interested in the relationship between children and animals via children's books for years, because it seems - well, weird. and provocative. if i had world enough, and time, i would write a nice long essay on animals and children's lit. it would be very animals-rightsish, and probably PETA would publish it.

ah well!

HP7 tomorrow, so I shall have to set aside the project for a day or so.
tonight, I shall probably finished Frances Browne's Granny's Wonderful Chair!

1 comment:

bookgrrrl said...

I tried to read Black Beauty when I was in 5th grade. It was the first time that I ever chose to not finish a book. I just couldn't get through it. I doubt that I ever will. It was the most horrifying thing I had ever read (it was later supplanted by Pet Cemetery by Stephen King).