I believe that children’s books provide a lot of information about the context of their times. I originally limited this statement to classic, but the books I grew up on, which I am not ready to admit could be classic, or the books I am sharing with my reluctant reader (who is reading beyond his grade level) both continue to communicate information on the values of our cultural context. There are books out now about understanding transgender issues, positive thinking and accepting yourself as well as those with differences, whereas previously, and in the book I am going to talk about in this post, books focused on things like obedience and authority and order.
Being a parent myself has helped me clarify what values I would most like my son to have. I am big on boundaries, and him standing up for himself and others, being kind, trying his best no matter what and having a positive attitude, no matter what the outcome (I have had to deal with some meltdowns if he didn’t make a goal in soccer). So it would make sense that the popular books of the time reflect the prevailing values. The parents are most typically the ones buying books for their kids. Except of course for the book I am writing about today, which was originally posted as stories in magazines, which were the thing in the 1890’s:
A Children’s Classic Published before 1980:
The Mowgli Stories, Rudyard Kipling
Now, I always like to shout out to Librivox when I listen to something classic because they have made listening way easier and free, and I have listened to the volunteer readings plenty of times, especially for the more obscure stuff that the regular market won’t take a chance on. But I cheated on Librivox this time and got this dramatized version from Audible. Dramatized versions are rising in my estimation, as long as they are not grossly abridged. And if they are, I will be sure to have read the actual classic first because that’s just more legit in my opinion.
I wondered when I listened to this what the jungles of India must seem like to a child raised in Britain at the time, how bright and animated and possibly frightening. Wiki says that Kipling wrote these when he lived in Vermont for his little girl who died at six, and similarly, the jungle probably would seem distant to a child raised here at that time as well.
The animals have their own anthropomorphized social system and somewhat of a democracy where they meet to discuss things rather than every animal for himself. They follow social rules, like not hunting at the water hole when water is scarce. The stories warn of what happens when someone doesn’t follow the general order and rules of the jungle. My favorite one warns of what happens when one ignores an ancient curse. Those are always for real.
I wondered as I listened about Mowgli’s having to move between worlds. I have seen the Disney Jungle Book movie. I am pretty sure I have a memory in there about seeing it in the movie theater. In the Disney version, Mowgli just sees an Indian girl and follows her off to her village and everything is cool. There is not an issue about fitting in or being one of them. In the movie they encourage him to move to the man world after he scares off Shere Khan, but in the book they kind of kick his butt out and he then kills Shere Khan himself by making the herd that he has to tend trample him to death. He goes back and forth between the man and animal worlds, not fitting in in either, which would be to be expected and a story I have seen before in the context of stratified societies, where a child is raised in the world for which he or she was not ultimately intended and then not being able to be part of either. I would expect a theme like that if it takes place in India at the time of British rule. The feral child theme also is not surprising, as childhood did not seem awesomely nurturing at that time, either. The wolves and the bear do a better job in loving and teaching Mowgli than the adults trying to raise children in The Secret Garden.
I am glad that BookRiot included a classic children’s book to get readers a taste of the values of different times and contexts of history. I need to get to the original jungle book too. That will probably be some Librivox magic. I have noticed that the audio of classics on Audible has gone way up. It used to be a few dollars when you bought the free kindle version of public domain books, but now the audio version of The Woman in White I want is about seven and a half dollars, a price often assigned to non public domain works. I am not sure why that is. It looks to me like Audible still has the audiobook market, but I think others are getting in on it, like Google Play, although I don’t know if they whispersync to the book, which is a feature I love. And I like being able to buy my credits in a chunk and sometimes there are sales where you can get two books for a credit. I still love them. I drink their Kool Aid. But I don’t know if they are getting too bold with the price hikes.
This one also could have counted as a one sitting book because the audio was only two and a half hours. I got most of it done in a vacation length gym session and finished it driving out and back to Target and lunch with a friend. I know, my white girl life is super hard. Don’t deny your sympathy for me.
Also, in a brief note, the novel drafting has picked up speed. I am hoping that around the time this post goes up that I will have it completely drafted. Also I am hoping that it will have gotten above freezing on a daily basis and warm enough at night to open the water that has already refrozen so I can watch the ducks and geese.