Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Childhood Books Revisited

Posted by Simcha 9:25 AM, under | 5 comments

In my post last week about Diana Wynne Jones I had mentioned that I would try to read, and in some cases reread, as many of her books as I can during the next week or so. And since many of her books were favorites of mine when I was younger, I’m actually quite excited about the prospect of revisiting them.

At the same time, I’m also a little nervous.

Even though I have been reading fantasy since I was a eleven, I rarely go back and read my childhood favorites, although I do like to keep them on a shelf close by. I suppose I’m just afraid that the books that I had loved so much as a child might not live up to my expectations, now that I’m an adult.

I remember the first time I had read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as an adult, expecting to be fully entranced by this magical book which had so captivated me when I was younger. Instead I was disappointed that the book seemed more simplistic than I remembered it. With a critical eye honed over years of steady reading, I couldn’t help examining the characters and their developments and finding them lacking. My acceptance of Aslan as good and gracious wasn’t as forthcoming as when I was younger. My adult-self wanted more evidence to back up claims about characters and events, which my child-self had easily accepted.

In short, this rereading experience was a disaster and I therefore decided it would be best to leave my childhood books untouched, so that they may preserved in my memory in all their original perfection.

But now as I prepare to read Jones’s
The Lives of Christopher Chant for the first time in fifteen years, I will be breaking this rule that I had set for myself, and I am a bit apprehensive about it.

I really can’t avoid reading this, and other of my childhood books, forever, since I would really love to share them with my own children, who are almost at an age to read them themselves. I also really do want to return again to those worlds and characters that had so strongly sparked my imagination and sent me searching for more adventures of fantasy and magic. But I just need to go about it the right way.
I think I need to set aside the critical analysis which is so much a part of my reading these days, and try to reclaim the easy acceptance and pure enjoyment that I once found in the simple telling of a story.

And I think I’m ready.

So I’m off to revisit the world of magic, witches and the Christomanci. And if all goes well, I’m going to get all my old books off the shelves and give them some longer-overdue attention.


I sometimes find it interesting to note that books that I hated when I was young are now some of my favourites for comfort reading. One I recently reviewed on my blog, Monica Hughes's Invitation to the Game, is one I tried to read about 5 times when I was a child, but couldn't get into it and found it terribly dull. Now I adore it. I think that's the joy of coming into the love of fantasy and sci-fi in my late teens. Since there are so many YA and children's fantasy novels, I get to go back and read some that I tried when I was little, maybe some I liked and others I didn't, and appreciate them on a new levelwhile still giving myself a bit of nostalgia.

I've heard several people say they don't like revisiting childhood favorites. And in a way I understand - there have been a few books from my childhood that lost their sparkle when I grew up. Diana Wynne Jones's books never have, though. They're complex enough that they're rewarding to me as a grown-up too, and I often notice things on the rereads that I completely missed when I was younger.

I know what you mean about revisiting childhood favorites. I had the opposite reaction to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I re-read it as an adult to my own child and I found myself crying over Aslan and I was nowhere near that affected when I read it the first time.

i have yet to re-read my childhood books which consisted of babysitter's club and the boxcar children books. but i did recently read a roald dahl books with my students and really enjoyed it. i definitely appreciated his unique way of writing more as an adult than a child.

Tea and Tomes: I haven't had that happen to me but I have been thinking of trying A Wrinkle and Time again, which I hated when I was younger, to see if I like it better now.

Jenny: Yes, I'm happy to discover that I am enjoying Jones's books just as much now as I did when I was younger. It's quite a relief, in fact.

Stephanie: Although The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe wasn't quite as I remembered it am looking forward to sharing it with my own kids who will hopefully love it as much as I did.

Chelleyreads: Ha, I remember when I was younger I thought the Babysitter Club and Sweet Valley Twins were the best literature ever written. I haven't been too tempted to revisit those though...

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