For reasons that escape me, I’ve at least 3 editions of Gulliver’s Travels. I haven’t read it, have no plans to read it. Just like I have no plans to read Treasure Island, Little Women, or Men, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, Kidnapped, anything by Kipling, or Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Is the last even a children’s title? These are considered classics. My question–who determines such things? Who designates one book over another as a classic? How did The Swiss Family Robinson turn into a venerable read? Or Heidi? Sales? I doubt it. It had to be some dry critic of eons past who bestowed upon Heidi the crown of ’classic.’ I’ve tried numerous times to read the book, but Shirley Temple keeps intruding her voice echoing, “Grandfather, Grandfather” over and over. That reminds me of two others I can’t seem to get past the first few chapters–The Little Princess, and The Secret Garden. Shirley’s half sobbing shouts, “Father, Father, don’t you know me? You MUST know me, I’m Sara, I’m your Sara!” as Queen Victoria wheels by makes drab the narrative of the original Princess. Naturally all ends well within the movies. I heard a rumor, however, that in the book, the father is really dead and never returns to poor Sara. No way will I crack open that book to be dashed in the end.
In perusing my memory as to what children’s classics I did read I’m not coming up with many. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, of course, but, and I am red-faced to say it, not until adulthood. Nope, not Black Beauty–does watching ‘My Friend Flicka’ on TV count–didn’t think so. I never had crushes on ponies, as lots of little girls do. My one encounter with an equine occurred when a 6th grade friend wanted some free riding lessons and if she convinced other girls to try one, she’d get her next free. I wasn’t afraid of the horse, or anything so childish, I simply hadn’t one iota of an idea of what to do and that lesson did nothing, zippo, nada. Most likely they wanted the little girls to fall in love with Pansy, or Chuckles, or whatever the giant toothed creature’s name was, and beg mommy and daddy for her own lessons, thereby losing nothing by the supposed ‘free’ one. Mary Poppins! There you go–I read many of the Poppins series. Another confession–only because I loved the Disney pic. I pretended to float up and up with a broken umbrella in my back yard. Wizard of Oz series–a few more than just the famous MGM version. Our third grade teacher started reading it to us, and we were assigned to continue the saga. Poppins I enjoyed, but was extremely disappointed she wasn’t red cheeked and pretty like Julie Andrews, and apparently had no singing voice. Supercalifragilisticexpialidotious (if that’s spelled correctly, I should win a trip to London) was no where to be found among the paragraphs, and Bert, well, he barely existed, soot notwithstanding. The Wizard had almost too many differences than the film–all sorts of wacky creatures, figurines that moved, or cracked or, oh something or other. And many more countries than Dorothy could have traversed with her pals even with those slippers, which also are not in the book–but who cares? Mr. Baum’s imagination far exceeded the whizes at MGM, even though he blatantly stole from Alice–I mean–what’s up with the scarecrow playing around with which way Dorothy should go, just like the Cheshire Cat did with Alice? I mean, come on! Rabbit hole, looking glass–or cyclone–all get you to another world–one of wonder, one of the wonderful-Oz.
Fairy Tales, Grimm and Andersen and all nations–nope. I was obsessed with them, yes, wanted to be a princess, yes, but had no books with the real stories. Sure I had those little Golden Books with or without Disney involved, but mostly I owned Classics Illustrated Junior–a veritable stack of them. Probably all that was printed by my age of say, 8. Every time a dentist appointment occurred–across the street to Woolworth’s and a new fairy tale. If teeth were pulled, I got a bonus one. If multiple teeth went, and believe me they did, I have a teeny jaw full of tons of ivories, I saw multiple kings and queens and witches and dwarfs and fairies do their stuff in fun comic color. And not one a bad ending. Amazing, right? They are all the Classics I need.