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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Fife

ReadMagic -What book have you revisited as an adult that differed from your memory? Day 12

For todays question - My answer is 2 books from my youth at drastically different ages. If anyone is wondering if my answers to these were planned in advance - Kind of, but usually no. I'm also randomly selecting which question on our inital list to answer pretty much based on my mood. But I digress. If you know me, or read my blog... I do that a lot.

Back on 'track':

My impetus for picking this question is partially my brother's reaction to one of my previous posts. Not really even the post, but the picture of the pile of books I'm considering using for my source material. He identified Mrs. Piggle Wiggle as "an abusive POS who's all about enforcing conformity" or something like that (remind me - Does POS Stand for Point of Sale?...).

Well... this isn't about Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. I'm not even sure if I'm ever going to get to writing about her. I can see his point. I also think it was silly to launch into a tirade about something not addressed in the post (which was about The Westing Game). But, it made me think (one thing a little tirade sometimes makes me do - if someone is willing to rant about something, maybe I should consider their point of view) about some of my other books that I have read, and the general format for many "kids books," and in particular reflecting on how our understanding of a topic changes as our life experience increases.

A book I was given I think in the first house I remember living in was Tootle. As a kid, I adored it. Its a pre-Thomas anthropomorphized train who wants to go play in the field. The pictures were fun, and the story - well he had to learn to stay on the tracks or something. I honestly didn't care much as a pre-reading little boy. I mainly just remember looking at the pictures. I probably read it a couple of times when I actually started learning to read, but it was a little loquacious for brand new readers, so I don't think I made it very far. It got put aside on a shelf and by the time I would have been up to reading it and understanding it for myself, I was on to things like The Westing Game and The Chronicles of Narnia.

When I started gathering up books for this 30 day #readingmagic thing, I honestly thought my copy of Tootle was my original, but looking in the cover and seeing the printing was 1997, I've since remembered we found it at a yard sale or second hand store & my nostalgia kicked in & I bought it. I then read it to my kids & was struck by the very adult message. Tootle is in some ways as my brother describes Mrs. Piggle Wiggle about conformity. But as you progress through the book, as an adult I understand Tootle is even about addiction. Anyone who's ever dealt with addiction either themselves or with a loved one should be able to recognize it in its pages. Tootle keeps secrets. Tootle lies. Heck, the final solution to get him "back on track" involves red flag waving. Oi... That is a bit much.

Couldn't resist this gif. (We pronounce it yif in Thomas, Idaho - Its an obscure dialect). Still love Tron. Take that sisters 'o mine. So do all my kids. And my wife at least likes it.

How many other subconscious messages are embedded in kids literature? (Or NOT so subconscious - like that other anthropomorphized train's Sir Toppem Hat "You have caused confusion and delay.") Well, I'm not going to get all worked up about it. It did get me thinking though. There are several books through the years that I've read to my kids that after the fact, I've thought, "Well, I'm not going to read that one again!" Tootle? mmm. Undecided. I still love the artwork, and the message isn't such that I'm going to up & throw out the book or refuse to read it to my kids again. I do identify much more with Tootle's free spirit & did even when I was little. Why shouldn't an anthropomorphized train be allowed to go have a race with a horse or make daisy chains? There are so many rules and societal norms we're all expected to follow and a good many of them are just purely traditional garbage and baggage handed down to us.

Tradition: Peer Pressure from Dead People.

Not to say I'm throwing them all out, but make your own decisions according to your own values. Decide what your values are and live according to them. We're in an age where everything is available and judgement is passed willy nilly on previous generations. We're in an age of awakening and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. If you want to go off the tracks, go ahead. It's OK. I would also ask that you don't judge previous art, governments, or people based solely on our "enlightened" 21st century sensitivities, values or experiences. Tootle was a work originally published in 1945. Its values reflect that and I would argue that it is a piece of art.

(Disney plus now shows a warning before Aristocats that it contains offensive characiturazations that may offend some ethnic groups, but rather than do a new version, they're leaving it like it is with a warning. Pretty sure EVERY Disney film from its inception to today does that, so why single out just that one?) Just like I don't throw out the work of Richard Wagner because of his personal anti-semitism (I love the Ring Cycle, even if the guy was a complete jerk), I'm not going to throw out books that have different values than my own.

OK. On to book 2... Much shorter and much less thought put into this part of the post- With the same brother some 33-34 years ago, (I know because of the room we were sharing at the time) we got into listening to books on tape from the library (YAY AUDIOBOOKS). It was pretty much his picking them & we listened to them together. Rendezvous with Rama. Rama II. And the one I recently revisited - Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. I remember a spiffy end/ascension of the world story, and I remembered the big reveal about who the Overlords were. But that was about all. I remember having fun listening to some pretty spiffy scifi with Kevin.

A couple years ago, I picked up a copy at a yard sale or something and planned on reading it. Part of what I like about our family read-aloud is that every few months, I get to pick what I read. I often like to use it to read something I've never read before or haven't read for a VERY long time. It's resulted in some fun discoveries with our family from Jacques Lusseyran's And There was Light to Rudyard Kipling's Kim. This is one that after reading it to the fam, I kind of regretted it. It's wierd. I still liked it & as I read it remembered a few more things I had forgotten. But it wasn't as magical as I remembered it being. My older kids found it weird & interesting too. My younger kids it probably went over their head mostly just like it did for 8 or 9 year old me.

Is there a book you've re-read as an adult, either to your kids/grandkids or yourself that seemed completely different from what you remembered?



I remember loving Charlotte's Web as a child. There was something lovely about Charlotte and all those cute talking animals. I re-read it just a couple of years ago. As an adult...I cannot stand Wilbur. He is an annoying, whiny, ungrateful brat. Charlotte....I still think she is lovely, but now I know that she had the patience of a saint because I don't think I could stand to be around Wilbur for me than a minute of two.

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