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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 30 May 2016, 09:30

They've missed the boat with Enid Blyton, I feel. The humour only works for those old enough to remember the originals. Her stuff however has been corrected politically so many times and over so many years that there are now more than one generation of readers at this stage who must wonder why the hell she's even a target for such satire at all.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 08 Mar 2018, 15:09

I reread this thread yesterday after LiR posted something about kids' literature in the bar. I was, during my revisiting of the thread, struck by this angry, but justified, comment:

@nordmann wrote:
Temp wrote:
Then the first husband didn't work out, so she scrubbed him out.


And how. Blyton was the one having affairs. Then she blackmailed the poor Major into pleading guilty to infidelities he hadn't committed so that her own reputation could remain pristine in the public eye, on pain of never seeing his daughters again. She got the divorce she wanted, her reputation intact under false pretences, and then got a court order against him seeing the girls anyway. Not content with that she then actively ensured he could never get work again in the publishing business. The man ended up an alcoholic bankrupt. Bloody vindictive and egoistic little bitch, she was.


Nordmann later added this:

@nordmann wrote:
You'll notice I've expanded "Bloody little bitch" in my comment to include "vindictive and egoistic". You can lump in "idiotic and psychotic" with them too.

Blyton cruelly ensured her two daughters would have no relationship with their father - a terrible thing indeed to have done to any child - or any father: an act of awful revenge which revealed her own narcissistic wound. Blyton had been prevented by her mother from having any meetings with her own father who had "deserted" the Blyton family. Dysfunction - repetition compulsion - passed on, or what the ancients in their language recognised as "visiting the iniquity of the fathers - or mothers - upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me..."  It's the stuff of Greek tragedy.

Enid Blyton influenced millions of children - as did/does Philip Pullman, the subject of a BBC programme this week (see iPlayer link below). His father - Pullman was told - died a hero. The truth is that Pullman Sr., plagued by women and money problems, committed suicide. How did this affect a man whose intent in writing for children was, as he himself said, "to undermine the basis of Christian faith"? He has - brilliant writer that he is - "influenced a generation"; but is/was he, in his own way, as f*cked up (to use the Philip Larkin expression) as Enid Blyton, and as pernicious a dysfunctional influence?

But then were Blyton or Pullman, or C. S. Lewis or J.K. Rowling - any of them actually pernicious - or just offering their slant on reality - or, rather, how to cope with unbearable reality? As a writer Pullman is not just streets, but whole motorways, ahead of the likes of Rowling or Blyton ( not Lewis, of course), but what have our children learnt from him or, for that matter, from Lewis? Was our generation perhaps more protected by the fantasies of the crazy, "vindictive bitch" Blyton  than are the children exposed too soon to the dreadful, godless universe (s) of Pullman? But then was Lewis nothing more than a very clever, Oxford-educated little boy lost? Or is that what Pullman is/was? Answers on a postcard please.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09vdpzw/imagine-winter-201718-4-philip-pullman-angels-and-daemons

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2018/03/05/imagine-philip-pullman-angels-daemons-review-uneven-portrait/


Last edited by Temperance on Fri 09 Mar 2018, 01:35; edited 1 time in total
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 08 Mar 2018, 17:02

I've never read any of Mr Pullman's books.  I quite liked Rosemary Sutcliffe's historical stories when I was getting past the Enid Blyton stage - never liked Frederick Treves though; just not my cuppa.  With more recent generations Tracey Beaker books were quite popular (just done a google search and it says the first book came out in 1991 and the author's name is Jacqueline Wilson).  They had a TV series to boost their popularity and I think the TV series "The Dumping Ground" is a follow-up (Tracey Beaker now being grown up).
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 08 Mar 2018, 17:13

I had a chat with a lady down the road (before I went base over apex) and said that (although I had never read Harry Potter though I caught a couple of the films on TV) I had been surprised to hear that some people disapproved of them because they thought they promoted witchcraft.  This lady has four adult sons and she said she never thought Harry Potter was so very terrible but that Philip Somebody or other freaked her out (I don't know if it was Mr Pullman - I can't remember the surname now).  I could never read any of Dennis Wheatley's black magic stuff (freaked me out) though I did read some of his historical novels in my teens.  I would probably pick holes in them now but in my fairly early teens I thought I was being terribly daring reading something the nuns would not have approved of (I went to a convent school).  Don't know if I learned much from them.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 08 Mar 2018, 22:19

Temperance,

I was forgotten or have it seen only with half an eye, your mentioning of "that" Enid Blyton and didn't lay the link with her, as I only was seeking yesterday for the novels of her and not reading about her life.
But with your mentioning here of nordmann and your comments I looked as ever first to the wiki...and now I see as you and nordmann said it...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enid_Blyton
And now I understand it all...
What a difference between the novels and her life...
I made here once a thread on these boards about Gregory Peck...
And there also a big difference between the actor, that I was a fan of as a youngster, and the man himself...

Kind regards, Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 09 Mar 2018, 08:42

@PaulRyckier wrote:
Temperance,

What a difference between the novels and her life...
I made here once a thread on these boards about Gregory Peck...
And there also a big difference between the actor, that I was a fan of as a youngster, and the man himself...

Kind regards, Paul.

What I was really mulling over yesterday - and expressed in a rather muddled way - is how millions of children have been influenced by writers such as Blyton, Lewis and Pullman (I'll leave J.K. Rowling out here), all of whom had, one way or another, very difficult childhoods. All three experienced devastating loss. Yet they all coped - apparently - and became hugely successful. They all determined to write books which would influence - mould? - young minds. Yet were all three actually damaged "adult children" who - for better or worse - worked through their unresolved issues by writing? All lost a parent when young: Lewis's mother died when he was 9, Pullman's father, as mentioned above, died when the boy was 7; Blyton's father left the family home when she was 13. Blyton loathed her mother apparently, and did not attend either her mother's or her father's funeral.

A friend of mine said to me on Tuesday that Pullman had "corrupted" an entire generation (she nevertheless acknowledged his undoubted genius as a writer): I said I thought that judgement was very harsh and that, in my opinion, he just tried to make children think - as did, in a completely different way - C.S. Lewis. I'd encourage children to read both authors - let them work out for themselves what they think.

Blyton didn't really make any of us think (well, a little bit, perhaps), but Lord, she did me good. She simply offered me - and countless others - a way of escaping. But not her own daughters, of course: as already noted, for them - or at least for one of them - there was no escape. Imogen had issues of her own after having experienced Enid Blyton as mum.

From Wiki:

Since her death and the publication of her daughter Imogen's 1989 autobiography, A Childhood at Green Hedges, Blyton has emerged as an emotionally immature, unstable and often malicious figure. Imogen considered her mother to be "arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind, and without a trace of maternal instinct. As a child, I viewed her as a rather strict authority. As an adult I pitied her." Blyton's eldest daughter Gillian remembered her rather differently however, as "a fair and loving mother, and a fascinating companion".


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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 09 Mar 2018, 09:35

The original point of this thread was not so much the things we learnt from children's literature that had been intended by the authors of the work, but what we in fact gleaned ourselves from reading it as children that would have come as a surprise to the authors concerned had they known. Blyton is a case in point - her cosy idyllic settings and unrealistic portrayal of children (an essential part of the escapist quality of her work that many of us were in fact grateful for) were also, even to very young minds such as ours, so divorced from our own personal experience that it raised some very important if subliminal doubts in us regarding adults' actual motives and the notion of obedience, independence, and intelligence as these applied to us at that age. And along with these fundamentally personal and introspective queries we were also invited to extend inquiry into wider issues of social status, child-parent relationships, domesticity, justice, etc. A lot to take on board all in one go, and yet there is hardly a Famous Five or Secret Seven narrative that doesn't in at least an oblique manner address all these important issues, at least for a mind already struggling to make sense of them and picking things up as they went along from whatever source presented itself.

When parodied, as her stuff often has been, it is precisely this distrust of motive that informs the primary targets of the satirist - and it is telling that for all the apparent innocence in her fantasy creations it is the very dark themes of potential loss of innocence and corruption of childish idealism and trust that the same material - in the hands of a satirist and with very little variation from her own invented characters and situations - most pertinently addresses. But then the satire works only because of the familiarity we already have with the material and themes it addresses, in a sense it merely confirms and validates our own thoughts, and in some cases thoughts we have harboured for longer than even we would care to admit.

I cannot remember how young I was when I began to formulate in my own mind theories regarding which adult-originated instruction and rules could be trusted and which could not - the older I get in fact the younger I think I was when first constructing "informed" doubts, and when it comes to Blyton it would have been unavoidable given the amount of her stuff I got through that much of the data I employed to this end originated within her books.

I am not sure that damaged people or people with their own childhood traumas are necessarily by default naturally adept authors of good children's literature. It can certainly be the case, and the examples you mention are indeed probably more than coincidence in this regard, but I would still think the most essential characteristic of a successful children's author is someone who can present as cogently logical a construct that is understandable to a young mind. The child does not have to "identify with" the characters or situations so much as they can engage with the story at all, either with a world purposely designed by the author to match their own experience or one of complete fantasy. Either extreme will engage a reader of any age if its intrinsic logic is secure and of course if the story is entertaining enough to hold one's interest.

What the author cannot control however is the educational content of their work - that which is actually learnt from the experience by minds geared to absorb even complicated propositions and theoretical constructs addressing their own existence from any and all sources, and as consciously or subliminally as each opportunity presents, can almost never be that which the author assumed.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 09 Mar 2018, 10:27

A really excellent post, nordmann: I wish I had written it.

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 09 Mar 2018, 13:47

After nordmann's erudition trust me to be lowbrow, but (and I can't remember now if I or anyone else mentioned it upthread) there were of course the children's comics from back in the day.  In my time there were (for girls) Bunty and Judy and then there were a whole plethora of general comics such as the Beano and the Dandy emanating from Scotland (D C Thompson) I believe.  I'm not saying I learned a whole lot of useful facts from them though they helped while away the boredom of wet (and therefore indoor) playtimes at school.  I'm sure it was very fanciful really but there was a story "Leap Along Leslie" about a Polish girl (the Leslie of the story) who pogo-sticked across Europe from her homeland with some papers (enclosed in said pogo-stick) that her father who had been arrested wanted her to deliver to the Allies.  Of course, feats such as Leslie pogo-sticking over barbed wire fences without anybody turning guns on her are utter plot holes by adult standards but I think Leslie's journey did give me a slightly better idea of the geography of Europe than I had had before (I know that certain European boundaries changed after World War II of course).  I think some of the D C Thompson comics had strip (as in cartoon not as in disrobing) versions of some of the classics (Robinson Crusoe etc).
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 09 Mar 2018, 19:35

Personally, I think this chap had more lasting effect on me than Crompton, Blyton et al. Perhaps because the "Children's Section" (one short shelf) of Brownhills Library had little else worth reading. http://romanysociety.org.uk/wp/?page_id=161
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 09 Mar 2018, 23:33

Although discerning early the difference between fact and fiction - a few 'wholesome' tomes came my way re-missionaries in Tibet and of real adventurers and such - there were a few tales I read over and over and certainly in the case of 'The Little Match Girl,'  in forlorn hope that she would not suffer as she did. Perhaps a sense of empathy came from my reading - and experiencing it later when witnessing real poverty about me - knowing and playing with   children of it. 
Story land situations -such as in 'Heidi ' honed my understanding of lonely, rejected children. In truth I had a rather Famous Five sort of childhood, not modeled on what we read but just using our environment fully and richly with  freedom allowed to do so and spread over several years too.
 I do not know what my grandchildren get from their reading/ film experience nor how to find out. And they do not have the freedom I did nor the huge range of children from slum kids to the posh ones from Boarding schools to enjoy it with. Tho having the latest of everything I sorrow for what I know mine own will never have.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 10 Mar 2018, 08:29

@LadyinRetirement wrote:
... but I think Leslie's journey did give me a slightly better idea of the geography of Europe than I had had before (I know that certain European boundaries changed after World War II of course).,,

I think you're doing pogo-hopping Leslie something of a disservice, LiR. Think of all that you actually stood to learn from her Carom-Slalom trek across occupied Europe and most probably did - her superhuman selflessness and inflated effort to secure justice and freedom for her kin, her extreme individuality as revealed in her choice of transport, her disdain for imposed gender role, her disregard of risk to life and limb in achieving her aim: all of these things were absorbed by your young mind in a period when your own personal self-education focused on what was expected of you in life, how you should define your own role and ambitions, to what extent you could test boundaries yourself (or even pogo-hop over them), who or what you should hold dear, how important it was to defend and protect these - be it people or ideals - and ultimately what possible "story" might be gleaned from your own time on this earth that could compare to Leslie and her oscillatory apparatus, not to mention to what extent you could control that narrative as Leslie did hers ...

You get my drift. And I am secure in believing that none of the above is an exaggeration because here you are, all these decades later and having arrived at the near-denouement of your own personal narrative, still with Leslie as fresh in your mind as the day you first encountered her. Such is the power of the parable and those that we absorbed to most fundamental effect as children came from much more fertile and educational sources than the few which were advertised to us for our own "good". Jesus and Aesop were in the ha'penny place compared to The Four Marys, Captain Hurricane, George and Timmy the dog, Beryl the Peril, The House of Dolmen, and the myriad other exemplars of the boundaries within which we should define ourselves at that crucial age when such things are probably of the most extreme importance that they ever will be again in our lives.

I recommend a novel by Umberto Eco "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana" in which a late middle-aged man loses his memory completely after a stroke and is in near suicidal despair when he realises what has happened to him. Until, that is, he stumbles across several cases in his attic filled with the literature of his childhood and piece by piece, as he re-reads all the old comics, penny-dreadfuls, almanacs and novels, he begins to reconstruct his memory and his personality from the evocations they engender. He emerges re-born and more self-aware - more in touch and at peace with his core being even - than before his stroke. I won't spoil the ending - which has a typical Eco twist to it - but it is a fascinating process for the reader to share with the protagonist of the story. In fact I would go so far as to say that it is one of those few books that can have as profound an unintended educational impact on a reader whose childhood has long been left behind them as almost every piece of printed material avidly devoured once had on their younger version.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 10 Mar 2018, 09:17

@nordmann wrote:
Think of all that you actually stood to learn from her Carom-Slalom trek across occupied Europe and most probably did - her superhuman selflessness and inflated effort to secure justice and freedom for her kin, her extreme individuality as revealed in her choice of transport, her disdain for imposed gender role, her disregard of risk to life and limb in achieving her aim: all of these things were absorbed by your young mind in a period when your own personal self-education focused on what was expected of you in life, how you should define your own role and ambitions, to what extent you could test boundaries yourself (or even pogo-hop over them), who or what you should hold dear, how important it was to defend and protect these - be it people or ideals - and ultimately what possible "story" might be gleaned from your own time on this earth that could compare to Leslie and her oscillatory apparatus, not to mention to what extent you could control that narrative as Leslie did hers ...


Good grief - I'm glad I never read about the wretched girl and her pogo-stick. I now feel suicidal with despair as I compare my own lack of pogo skills, determination and control of destiny with hers. An unexamined life - or reflections on a mundane life sans pogo-stick - which is worse?


@nordmann wrote:
 Jesus and Aesop were in the ha'penny place compared to The Four Marys, Captain Hurricane, George and Timmy the dog, Beryl the Peril, The House of Dolmen...

No comment in response to that at the moment, as I am spluttering into my tea.

EDIT: Still no comment, but I suppose you could have a point.


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 10 Mar 2018, 10:57

I haven't read any of G Barrow's books, sorry, but I do remember that when reading a history of Stafford  it was mentioned that the writer of the "Romany Rye" had stayed at The Swan Inn (which used to be a coaching inn; MM mentioned coaching inns on the vanishing skills thread) in Stafford - as did Charles Dickens who had a very low opinion of the townspeople of Stafford saying they were always whining and complaining.  Another old coaching inn of my town The Bear is now "The Bear Gryll" - actually it's not too bad; I've sometimes gone in there for a coffee if I've had a long time to wait for a bus or whatever - but what an awful name.

I did read (much later when I found a website dedicated to old comics) that "Leap Along Leslie" or her name at least - not her story - might have been based on "Limp Along Leslie" (I'm afraid I know nothing of Limp Along).

I may have mentioned this before so apologies if I have but one thing in a book from childhood days which saddened me profoundly was the death of the mare, Ginger, in Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty" - Ginger and Beauty meet again, Ginger having come on hard times; all the book says is that after their discussion when Ginger explains her terrible predicament and then they part again when the traffic starts moving once more is that Beauty sees a dead horse that looked like a Ginger being carted away and that he hoped it was Ginger so that she would be out of her misery.

Priscilla has mentioned Hans Andersen.  I found him quite unsettling as a child, though of course (and I think P alludes to this) the lives of a lot of children in his day would have been far from ideal so.  When I lived in London (thinking of the match girl) there were some flats in Bow [I think they are called The Bow Quarter now] which are quite posh that are based in what used to be a match factory.  I think the match making girls/women went on strike in the 19th century and of course there was always the danger of "phossie jaw". (sp?)  Sorry if that has been mentioned before - I haven't gone back through every comment on every thread. I have been told that Andersen's work has sometimes suffered in translation from the Danish and that there may nowadays be better translations than what was available to me as a child.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 12 Mar 2018, 10:55

Before taking a spell of sick leave from Res Hist - treatment for the old reoccurring cold shoulder, I ought add a word about the fable that, like the Little Match Girl, I read many, many times and pondered  long over - and doubtless why wolf hounds have always appealed. That is, of course, the tale of Gelert, the faithful hound. Before my time my family (half welsh) had one - called Gerly. Tales of her and my finding the legend engendered an early interest in having one. But that and a castle with forest never happened...... unless one finds allegory  with a wry smile and chuckle.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 12 Mar 2018, 11:20

Fairy tales - at least the very old traditional ones - are designed to reach fundamental parts of our psyche, and I would challenge any even semi-sensitive person to deny that they do not in any way retain at least some of the imagery and emotion these tales evoked when first encountered. We had discussed earlier how they were employed by adults to teach some valuable life lessons of dire importance to very young children, and there is no denying that this was the case, but of course the reason why they survived for the re-telling through so many generations wasn't so much for their effect as moralistic or instructive parables, but simply because they held the same pull on the adult as the child and it took more conscious effort not to impart them than to pass them on. They were not only good stories but also ones in which things could be expressed that were difficult to communicate in any other way, and not always about "life lessons", "folk philosophy", "morality fables", or any of the other neat academic pigeon-holes to which they have often been confined when subsequently analysed. Primeval stuff at their best, and still difficult to identify just where their appeal really lies - except of course to acknowledge that this appeal has been undeniable for as long as they have existed (and some of them for a very long time indeed).

Sorry to hear you're giving us the cold shoulder again, P. Hope it heals up soon.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 12 Mar 2018, 11:24

Oh yes, I remember the story of Gelert.  I was disappointed to learn that Gelert's grave was built by one of the local landlords in the 19th century (in Beddgelert) and Wiki says similar legends are to be found in other countries.  I MAY have mentioned somewhere here before but I think Disney borrowed from the legend in "Lady and the Tramp"only transferred to cats "We are Siamese if you please, we are Siamese if you don't please" where the Siamese cats do something that gets blamed on Lady the cocker spaniel who is despatched to the pound - but of course her ragamuffin hero the Tramp is there to come to her aid.

And all the best with your shoulder, P.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 12 Mar 2018, 11:52

Honestly, what with frozen shoulders, noses put quite out of joint, knee jerk reactions, pains in arses - not to mention the  paranoia, grandiosity and obsessive-compulsive disorder that can develop here - signing in at Res His should come with a Health Warning.

Not really to do with literature as such, but I learnt a lot from cautionary rhymes. This impressed me greatly:

Don't Care was made to care;
Don't Care was hung.
Don't Care was put in a pot
And boiled till he was done.


Mmm.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 12 Mar 2018, 12:17

Poetry is literature, I would have thought. And old nursery rhymes belong to that whole caboodle, are not necessarily distinguished in very young minds from loftier literary sources or examples, and in effect do exactly the same job as the most high-brow, erudite and well written literary essay in poesy - sometimes probably even better a job.

There are in fact many proverbial warnings in English about caring too much - probably sound advice to a subject people, it being as well to inculcate the notion in young subjects' minds as soon as possible for their own good. One interesting example is the "care killed the cat" group of proverbs which go back many centuries. Shakespeare - in typical form - put a twist on it with his "Though care kill'd a cat, Thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care!", however the bulk of the versions we know of from before and after Our Willie were mostly simply variants on "See? It killed the feline, so careful how much you care ..." kind of thing.

It's interesting mostly because in very recent times - probably as a result of it subsequently having been absorbed into mainstream American culture too - the expression hasn't changed that much verbally but semantically has gone off in a whole new direction - now "care" implies "looking after", "caring for" or "tending to"  a particular object of attention and affection rather than simply allowing some abstraction to matter to one. This of course has fundamentally changed the sense of the thing as it now advises against nurturing and affording attention to the feline's well-being, the implication being that the more care you lavish on someone the more likely you are to kill them rather than help them.

Both are dubious pieces of advice, it must be said, and even arguably immoral in their insistence that to engage empathically with someone else, be it in principle or practice, will only end to your own detriment. In modern Britain however I suppose it could still be argued that both the traditional and the more modern senses can now equally apply.

You see? I care too!
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 12 Mar 2018, 19:03

Yep, I concede all that - nursery rhymes are full of useful lessons; there are lots of studies on their impact, use and significance. Didn't Genesis have an album called Nursery Crymes (sic) - clever title (well, I thought so at the time).

The comments on "caring" were spot-on. T.S. Eliot - although not writing for children (or only for perplexed adult children) - put it nicely in Ash Wednesday:


Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.


And what about M.A.? I'm always reminding myself of his advice against fretting too much: "You may eat your heart out, but the world will still carry on."
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 12 Mar 2018, 22:12

@Temperance wrote:
A really excellent post, nordmann: I wish I had written it.


I join you in that, Temperance, but also the same  for your message too.

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 13 Mar 2018, 08:49

@Temperance wrote:

And what about M.A.? I'm always reminding myself of his advice against fretting too much: "You may eat your heart out, but the world will still carry on."


Excessive worry was something that he advised one should avoid, though not at the expense of reasoned deliberation occasioned by concern. Learning to draw the line between the two was important to him - the "care killed the cat" attitude draws the line so base that it eludes morality whereas the "care exceeds reason in importance" approach leads one to end up working against the very interests one presumed to adopt and nurture.

The important thing is never to think one has finished the process of working out these parameters to the extent that they can become a general rule. Life isn't actually like that - or as M.A. remarked "If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth by which no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance."
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 13 Mar 2018, 09:09

Nordmann, quoting Marcus Aurelius wrote:


"If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth by which no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance."

Amen to that. Wise man, that Roman.


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 13 Mar 2018, 09:34

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 13 Mar 2018, 14:27

Just one final thought - and a depressing one, I'm afraid. At the end of the day, just how much good did all that reading really do? Many of us here probably spent much of our childhood and adolescence devouring books: I know I certainly did, but was the so-called  "intellectual insight" (wry laughter) thus acquired any good at all without what I believe is now called "cognitive insight" - the ability and willingness to act on insight and actually change (as M.A. advised)? Did all that reading really achieve anything except make me good at passing exams, so that I could carry on reading more books? Did it help me/us cope with the vicissitudes of life? Does being street-wise actually count for more than being book-wise? Kids probably learn far more - for better or worse - about what is called "real life" from other kids. I suppose the ideal is to have both - books and street.

So here's a sad question from one for whom books have meant everything in her life - did I really learn anything at all?

And we have the words from the famous Simon and Garfunkel song, "I Am a Rock" - the ultimate warning to adolescents against thinking that books and poetry can be used as a defence against authentic living and the world itself.


I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island


Time to garden now.


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 13 Mar 2018, 14:50

If the point of reading is simply to "learn" as in "to acquire wisdom and knowledge" then I suppose there is no such thing as an unequivocal answer to any of your questions, but there are certainly any number of answers which could assume that guise and even pass as being definitive (if one doesn't scrutinise them too closely). But then is that the point of reading (if reading has a "point" at all), and what about all the other definitions that apply to the verb "to learn"? Don't they also apply therefore to the activity of reading, or watching TV, or listening to the radio, or any other assimilation of vicarious experience?

To identify what one has "learnt" from satisfying such an obviously innate requirement is akin to asking oneself what one has "learnt" having drunk enough water to satiate a sharp thirst. Undoubtedly something could be cobbled together to answer that question, but it would be a pointless statement since it ignores the primary reason for the action and the primary effect of it too. Assuming one should be depressed because one chooses to see this lack of apposition as a deficiency raises more questions about one's humour than one's intellectual curiosity, and is in fact quite worrying to read.

At least that's what I've learnt from reading it ... Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 13 Mar 2018, 17:10

Oh, take no notice of my ramblings - I'm just having a dark teatime of the soul.

I don't really understand what you have just posted, but not to worry. Just need a few choruses of Bright Side.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 28 Mar 2018, 10:30

I am intrigued by the following list of children's books which have been banned in certain American school and public libraries, or are being considered for banning, or have been the subject of sufficient complaints from parents who do not wish their children exposed to what they obviously see in some cases as the "subliminal message" that the work contains and which they find offensive to warrant consideration for a general ban from all libraries.

The American Library Association's Patricia Peters compiled the list in 2016. She is a member of the ALA's department "Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF)" which has been set up to monitor such cases of literature being challenged as unsuitable for young minds. You may recognise some of the works and authors listed;

Allan, Nicholas. Where Willy Went
Allard, Harry. Bumps in the Night
Allard, Harry. The Stupids series
Allington, Richard. Once Upon a Hippo
Ancona, George. Cuban Kids
Avi. The Fighting Ground
Babbitt, Natalie. The Devil’s Storybook
Bailey, Jacqui, and Jan McCafferty. Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up
Bannerman, Helen. Little Black Sambo
Birdseye, Tom. Attack of the Mutant Underwear
Blume, Judy. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret
Blume, Judy. Blubber
Brannen, Sarah S. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding
Brittain, Bill. The Wish Giver
Brown, Laurie Krasny, and Marc Brown. What’s the Big Secret? Talking about Sex with Girls and Boys
Brown, Marc Tolon. Buster’s Sugartime
Butler, Dori Hillestad. My Mom’s Having a Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy
Carle, Eric. Draw Me a Star
Christensen, James, C., Renwick St. James and Alan Dean Foster. Voyage of the Basset
Clutton-Brock, Juliet. Horse (DK)
Cohen, Daniel. Ghostly Warnings
Cohen, Daniel. Phantom Animals
Cole, Babette. Mommy Laid An Egg
Cole, Joanna. Asking About Sex and Growing Up
Collier, James Lincoln, and Christopher Collier. Jump Ship to Freedom
Collier, James Lincoln, and Christopher Collier. My Brother Sam is Dead
Collier, James Lincoln, and Christopher Collier. With Every Drop of Blood
Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War
Coupe, Peter. The Beginner’s Guide to Drawing Cartoons
Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963
Dahl, Roald. James and the Giant Peach
Dahl, Roald. The Witches
de Haan, Linda. King & King
DeClements, Barthe. Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You
Elliot, David. An Alphabet for Rotten Kids
Fierstein, Harvey. The Sissy Duckling
Fogelin, Adrian. My Brother’s Hero
Fox, Mem. Guess What?
Fox, Paula. The Slave Dancer
Garden, Nancy. Holly’s Secret
Geisel, Theodor Seuss. Hop on Pop: The Simplest Seuss for Youngest Use
Geisel, Theodor Seuss. If I Ran the Zoo
George, Jean Craighead. Julie of the Wolves
Gordon, Sharon. Cuba
Grove, Vicki. The Starplace
Hahn, Mary Downing. The Dead Man in Indian Creek
Hanford, Martin. Where’s Waldo?
Harper, Charise Mericle. Flashcards of My Life
Harper, Kathryn. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Harris, Robie. It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health
Harris, Robie. It’s So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families
Harris, Robie. Who’s In My Family?: All About Families (Let’s Talk About You and Me)
Henkes, Kevin. Olive’s Ocean
Henson, Jim. For Every Child a Better World
Hergé [Georges Remi]. Tintin in America
Hergé [Georges Remi]. Tintin in the Congo
Herthel, Jessica, and Jazz Jennings. I Am Jazz
Hill, Douglas Arthur. Witches and Magic-Makers
Homes, A.M. Jack
Ignatow, Amy. The Popularity Papers
Jukes, Mavis. It’s a Girl Thing: How to Stay Healthy, Safe and in Charge
Kehret, Peg. Stolen Children
Kellogg, Steven. Pinkerton, Behave!
Kilodavis, Cheryl. My Princess Boy: A Mom’s Story About a Young Boy Who Loves to Dress Up
Kotzwinkle, William, and Glenn Murray. Walter the Farting Dog
L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time
Lewis, Richard, comp. There Are Two Lives: Poems by Children of Japan
Lindgren, Astrid. The Runaway Sleigh Ride
Lowry, Lois. Anastasia Krupnik series
Lowry, Lois. The Giver.
Madaras, Linda. What’s Happening to My Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons
Madaras, Linda. What’s Happening to My Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters
Martin, Michael. Kurt Cobain
Mayle, Peter. Where Did I Come From?
Mercado, Nancy E., ed. Tripping Over the Lunch Lady and Other Short Stories
Merriam, Eve. Halloween ABC
Merriam, Eve. The Inner City Mother Goose
Mochizuki, Ken. Baseball Saved Us
Nelson, O.T. The Girl Who Owned a City
Newman, Leslea. Heather Has Two Mommies
Okimoto, Jean Davies, and Elaine M. Aoki. The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption
Opie, Iona. I Saw Esau
Orgel, Doris. The Devil in Vienna
Pardi, Francesca, and Tullio F. Altan. Little Egg (Piccolo uovo)
Park, Barbara. Junie B. Jones (
Parr, Todd. The Family Book
Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia
Paterson, Katherine. The Great Gilly Hopkins
Perritano, John. Amityville
Peters, Lisa Westberg. Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story
Pilkey, Dav. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel
Pilkey, Dav. Captain Underpants series
Pittman, Gayle E. This Day in June
Polacco, Patricia. In Our Mothers’ House
Pullman, Philip. His Dark Materials series
Quinlan, Patricia. Tiger Flowers
Reavin, Sam. The Hunters Are Coming
Richardson, Justin, and Peter Parnell. And Tango Makes Three
Rodgers, Mary. Freaky Friday
Rosen, Lucy. I Am Bane
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter series
Ruby, Laura. Lily’s Ghosts
Sachar, Louis. The Boy Who Lost His Face
Sachar, Louis. Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl?
Schniedewind, Nancy. Open Minds to Equality: A Sourcebook of Learning Activities to Affirm Diversity and Promote Equity
Schreier, Alta. Vamos a Cuba ( A Vist to Cuba)
Schwartz, Alvin. And the Green Grass Grew All Around
Schwartz, Alvin. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat
Schwartz, Alvin. Ghosts! Ghost Stories in Folklore
Schwartz, Alvin. Scary Stories series
Sendak, Maurice. In the Night Kitchen
Sherman, Josepha, and T.K.F. Weisskopf. Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts
Silverstein, Shel. A Light in the Attic
Smith, Jeff. Bone series
Snyder, Zilpha Keatley. The Egypt Game
Speare, Elizabeth George. The Sign of the Beaver
Steer, Dugald. Wizardology: The Book of the Secrets of Merlin
Stine, R.L. Goosebumps series
Stroud, Jonathan. The Amulet of Samarkand
Stroud, Jonathan. The Golem’s Eye
Stroud, Jonathan. Ptolemy’s Gate
Tamaki, Mariko, and Jillian Tamaki. This One Summer
Taylor, Mildred D. The Land
Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Telgemeier, Raina. Drama
Texier, Ophélie. Jean Has Two Moms (Jean a deux mamans)
Toriyama, Akira. Dragon Ball: The Monkey King
Willhoite, Michael. Daddy’s Roommate
Winter, Jeanette. The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq
Winter, Jeanette. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan
Yep, Laurence. Dragonwings


From the first book on the list "Where Willy Went" (Willy is a friendly little human sperm on his way to hopefully fertilise an egg) to the last "Dragonwings" (which concerns an eight year old Chinese immigrant's experience in San Francisco during the time of the 1905 earthquake and his father's ambition to be the first to build an aeroplane while battling poverty and prejudice) what these books share is that they have each prompted concerned parents to complain in sufficient numbers regarding what they teach the child reader. What emerges is a palpable fear of two things - that children should understand human biology and reproduction, and that children should be aware that prejudice and unfairness exists in the world. What emerges also is that the complaint is as often as not justified on religious grounds, or at least grounds of morality derived from religious belief, even though the books in question almost never address the subject of religion at all and certainly do not advocate atheism.

The ALA, to its credit, enlists as much as possible children's own views on these books before any decision regarding their availability is taken, and another pertinent fact that emerges from this consultation is that the children - surprise surprise - are much more secure in their judgement of the literature than their parents. Not only can they absorb the intended point of the literature (the "overt" message) but can often eloquently point out all else that they have learnt from the experience of  having read a reasonable book which has been unreasonably censured by their parents, or at least can weigh one form of reason against the other and arrive in the main at a reasonable conclusion themselves.

In the manner of "learning" therefore that I had intended this thread to address the list represents a comprehensive anthology of what - at least for American children - must therefore represent a literary and educational goldmine of sorts. What an individual child can (and most probably does) learn from the experience of reading works listed above extends way beyond the simple (often simplistic) "lesson" the authors may have intended their work to convey. In some cases no such "lesson" was ever intended at all (Roald Dahl springs to mind) but yet the educational value, thanks to these parents, mushrooms exponentially.

I wish the OIF well in its endeavours to retain these works, or at least most of them, within the collections the ALA represents in schools and communities throughout the USA. If only Christopher Hitchins had written a children's book - now THAT would have made things very interesting indeed!
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 28 Mar 2018, 11:24

I know hardly any of these books, nordmann, so can't judge them.  Would "Little Black Sambo" be excluded [or suggested for exclusion because it was considered racially 'dodgy' in modern times?]  I was an adult by the time Roald Dahl's books became well known and they are not "my cuppa" but I'm mystified why anyone would want to ban them.  He does write about witches and such the like though (I did see the film of "The Witches" on TV) it's pretty obvious to me at least that his stories were pure fantasy.  Like, I'm not going to turn to the dark side because I saw Anjelica Huston playing a witch in a film.  Still, on my foray into the strange part of YouTube I became aware that there are conspiracies theorists who think that there is an elite illuminati cabal trying to influence the world via the media, so maybe they think there is some occult significance in RD's books.

In my teenage days somebody caught their kid (not Sincerely Thine) reading "Lady Chatterley's Lover" and burned the book (just as well it wasn't a library copy).  I've never read that book though I have read some other D H Lawrence works. (Hope this reads okay - just had a "Simon's Cat" moment - my cat jumped up and walked across the keyboard and brought up a load of gobbledegook).

I also hope I'm not giving the kiss of death to the thread - a couple of threads that were going quite well seem to have gone quiet since I posted there - I didn't try to damage the threads on purpose, honestly.


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 28 Mar 2018, 11:46

You wouldn't believe the amount and variation in objections to Dahl as submitted to the ALA, LiR, but they boil down in essence to two principal objections; encouraging children to be disrespectful to adults, and encouraging children to believe in non-Christian morals. Dahl didn't help his case by writing a few "steamy" (but often very funny) "adult" books in his time - I highly recommend his 1979 "My Uncle Oswald", the memoirs of the world's greatest fornicator, which believe it or not was banned in Norway simply because at one point there is an attempt to seduce King Haakon by slipping him potent aphrodisiacs in a box of chocolates (which backfires hilariously). However it is the "disrespect" his child characters show in many of his stories by accurately adjudging the adult characters to be evil, stupid, hypocritical and confused (sometimes all together) which seems to be most obnoxious to certain parents. God apparently backs them up on this too, which says a lot about fragile divine egos and how they have managed to migrate from ancient pantheons theologically into the monotheistic versions, where you would think one god doing the work of what had once been a large committee would at least have the ego to match the undertaking - but apparently not, it seems.

Bannerman's book was published in 1899 and was for many years regarded as a "classic". A record version (an early audio book) from 1961 was very popular and featured Susan Hampshire in the title role. In more recent times it has become a huge political football, second only to Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" for having been self-censored and unilaterally banned by publishers without even waiting for any official decree on the matter. In the USA, as you can imagine, even mention of it these days can get one into trouble. The ALA however believes it represents therefore an important document which almost all by itself can be used to interpret a century-long shift in prevailing racist attitudes and sensitivities and should be available for students of social history to examine, in much the same way that a museum of slavery would show the irons in which the unfortunate victims were shackled. It is a brave stance to take in the face of knee-jerkism (if that's not a contradiction in terms) but one they are currently losing. Even putting a copy up on e-Bay these days can have you indicted for hate crimes. Since you'll probably therefore never get to read the thing yourself I can tell you that little Sambo (from the Indian sub-continent though his case has been championed by Afro-Americans) outwits all four nasty tigers who try to eat him and ends up with a bucket of ghee to give to his mother. At least he was happy!

Don't worry about executing threads prematurely - some of them require to be put out of their misery anyway.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 28 Mar 2018, 12:50

Crumbs, that's really strange, nordmann.  I read books about Greek and Egyptian myths back in the day but I never ended up wanting to worship any of the mythical gods mentioned therein - they were just a story.  I'm sure children don't need any help from books to put the cheek on sometimes.  The not conventionally goody-goody child has featured in books long before Mr Dahl wrote fiction.  Enid Blyton wrote about "The Naughtiest Girl in the School" although as Temperance reminded me (upthread) the naughtiest girl became a monitor in the end.  Minnie the Minx and Tracey Beaker are rebellious heroines (anti-heroines?) that I have cited before.

Sambo wanting to (and succeeding) in giving his mother a bucket of ghee does not seem so very bad.  Tigers are an endangered species so I hope LBS didn't make them even more endangered in outwitting them!

I mentioned "Leap Along Leslie" (comic story - as in story in a comic not as in funny) upthread - now I can't remember whether it was in the Bunty or the Judy (I was SUCH an intellectual young woman) but there was a story about a young Indian girl (set in the 19th century - at the time of the Raj) going through various trials and tribulations until she gets her "happy" ending adopted by a British military family.  I'm sure that wouldn't be politically correct nowadays.  I can't remember the details of the story (the heroine may have been called "Sukaro") but I can't find anything about it on the internet - as I did about Leslie.  Incidentally I did come across a site entitled "Bring Back Bunty".  https://bringbackbunty.wordpress.com

When I mentioned about seemingly having whatever is the opposite of green fingers on some threads (orange fingers??) I suppose I was thinking that I want the site to stay lively.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 28 Mar 2018, 13:00

I'm all for bringing back Bunty - especially if they include the back page "cut-out" Bunty in her underwear with an assortment of "clothes" one could also cut out and hang onto her lithe little body (after gluing her to cardboard) by their wee paper tabs which you had to be sure not to accidentally cut off in your enthusiasm to get the girl clad. They had themes - Bunty goes on holiday, Bunty goes to a party, Bunty goes riding, Bunty goes to a funeral (just made that one up) etc.

What were they thinking of? Smile Little girls in their underwear for everyone to play with .... I can't even begin to explain what I might have learnt from that one!
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 28 Mar 2018, 14:32

Oh Bunty wore sensible undies though, nordmann, they were rather passion killers if memory serves me well.  Sometimes banning things can give them more appeal - I've never read "Satanic Verses" and hopefully I never will - but I have a personal theory (not a conspiracy one) that a lot more people read that book after it was banned than would have read it otherwise.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 28 Mar 2018, 15:52

At least Bunty had some knickers ... poor old Action Man didn't have so much as a thong, and however well-equipped he might have been militarily, his lack of trouser tackle was embarrassingly plain for all to see: just a smooth, featureless swelling, rather resembling a nasty hernia. I'm not sure what message that gave: guns are OK to play with but genitals aren't, I suppose. Although even the most naive child must have realised that there was something rather odd in that, while Action Man's Lee-Enfield Mark I, M16 assault rifle, or MP38 Maschinenpistole were all fairly realistically sculpted, the same couldn't be said for his more intimate, yet no less visible, personal equipment.


@LadyinRetirement wrote:
I've never read "Satanic Verses" and hopefully I never will - but I have a personal theory (not a conspiracy one) that a lot more people read that book after it was banned than would have read it otherwise.

Actually I suspect it was more like Hawking's 'Brief History of Time' in that many people claimed to have read it thinking it might make them appear 'sophisticated' ... but in truth very few actually did. I used to be a great fan of Rushdie and thoroughly enjoyed 'Midnight's Children', 'Grimus' and 'Shame', but I found 'Satanic Verses' very hard work, and, having struggled to the bitter end, still couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Nevertheless all the bile and hatred certainly served to keep it in the UK's best seller list for many weeks, which presumably partly paid for his 24 hour security.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 28 Mar 2018, 22:23

A year or 2 before the Satanic Verses there was also Spycatcher by Peter Wright. After all the fuss surrounding its publication just what a tediously dull read that turned out to be. Wright, of course, was quids in and so too was his Australian barrister Malcolm Turnbull who is now Prime Minister of that country.

On the list of banned children's books is Walter the Farting Dog which has now been translated into Latin:



Fun and educational - what's not to like?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 30 Mar 2018, 12:22

At a folk club I used to go to in Romford when I lived/worked in the Greater London area a lady used to sometimes sing a song about the dolls, Barbie and Ken with a chorus "There's nothing down below-ho-ho - and ending (I think) "the serious fraud squad are anxious to know why there's nothing down below".  However when I was bashing out data entries at the Natural History Museum (not a million miles from MM's alma mater) one young lady on the team (I was the only old trout) informed that her boy doll had been anatomically correct.  I can see kids liking the f*rting dog though!

I think I mentioned upthread that I'd heard of someone banning her grandchildren from reading (or watching?) Harry Potter because it was about witchcraft.  Now whatever Enid Blyton's shortcomings as a person I did go through a phase of reading her avidly including some of her books featuring magic (though I probably preferred the adventure books which made my life look very tame in contrast).  I never ended up wanting to practise the dark arts (though the idea of being able to wave a magic wand and get the housework done is tempting but unfortunately untrue).  Not much about what I learned from reading in this post..sorry.
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