Friday, March 07, 2008

The past is another country.

The Newbery Medal is presented each year by the American Library Association to the author of the outstanding American book for children. Winners from my childhood that I have loved included Bridge to Terebithia, A Wrinkle In Time, The Westing Game, The Grey King, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The High King, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Most of those books I have gone on and re-purchased and re-read as an adult, and loved them just as much.

The 2007 winner was a book by the title of The Higher Power, whose most notable feature was a row over the use of the word "scrotum" in a children's book.

Thanks to a good friend, I have just finished reading the 1942 Newbery winner, a book entitled The Matchlock Gun. I can only shake my head and agree with my friend that this wonderful little tale would never survive in a modern children's library. You see, from cover to cover the whole book would be deemed thoughtcrime in today's America.

Sad, really...

15 comments:

Matt G said...

You're doing the same thing I do. I'm not a media critic, and I don't watch all movies, or read all books. So what to do? Delegate!

To find the best, it's worth skimming the cream, by reading ALL of: The Newberys (I'm making my daughters check out a Bluebonnet or a Newbery for every one of another kind of book from the library), the Nebulas, the Hugos. Looking for some good SF? Check one of these out.

I also made myself watch some of the older Academy Award winner movies, and you know? Some of 'em are pretty good.

I remember "The Matchlock Gun," from 5th grade. We were introduced to it with a little short clip from it in our reading books (which also included a lengthy clip from Heinlein's Star Beast), and I went and found it.

the pawnbroker said...

so true of today's school libraries, as i mentioned in a response to an earlier of your posts "a boy and his gun", my favorite from my elementary school years, would never pass p.c. muster today...so sad.

jtc (now "the pawnbroker")

OA said...

Given how many kids, much less teens, are quit literally barely literate to functionally illiterate, I don't think well be seeing many of the old or new books being read.

Brian J. said...

I read my boy Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and my wife said that had a feel of a really old book.

Yeah, because it's story involves a man down on his luck and the edge of obsolescence taking one more shot, working hard, and adapting.

Pretty much every book my child has that was written after 1990 features the story of an animal learning to be friends with animals that are not like it. Rabbits buddying up to bears and whatnot.

Preparing them for a wonderful world where they'll be rabbits well treated by the bears, no doubt.

CrankyProf said...

Used bookstores are our friends. I've been buying all the kids' new books at the book barn -- most of the new stuff is over-produced crap.

I DID use a copy of "Why Mommy is a Democrat" as a skeet target...

Anonymous said...

I suppose, if it were written today, "A Wrinkle in Time", under advice from the publisher, would be titled... "A Wrinkle in Scrotum".

(I think I read two of the "Wrinkle" books... I should problem finish the rest off one of these days.)

Breda said...

shhhh....the library where I work still has an early edition of The Matchlock Gun on the shelf. The color illustrations are stunning. (I just read it on Wednesday)

Oldsmoblogger said...

I'll have to read The Matchlock Gun. Its immediate successor, some obscure piece of hackwork called Johnny Tremain that they gave a Newberry to out of either sympathy or war-era jingoism ;-), is one of my all-time favorites.

Ditto said...

"are quit literally barely literate to functionally illiterate, I don't think well be seeing many of the old or new books being read."

Huh?

The Duck said...

I recently found my first gun book
The How & Why Wonder Book of Guns, copyright 1963

It was a neat re-addition to the libary

staghounds said...

Glad you liked it, I figured it was your style. Shame the NRA can't offer it, it's great RKBA literature in several ways.

As a child and still, I've always liked stories where people face difficulty and get over it. I believe it's because for a child, everything is an unexpected test, and I've never lost that sense of bewilderment.

Regolith said...

The only books on that list I have read was "A Wrinkle in Time."

Man, been a long time since I have read that book. I almost forgot about it, and unfortunately I've forgotten what it was about....


So many books, so little time.

Ace said...

Seven branches of our county library have a copy in their inventory.

I also found it at a local used bookstore yesterday.

Anonymous said...

You ought to check out Terry Pratchett's "The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents". I can't remember which award it won, but I was half-surprised it didn't win a Newbery.

Seth from Massachusetts said...

Father told me this story when I was a little boy over 50 years ago. I lever knew it was a book! Takes me back!