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This post has nothing to do with the rain, but the phrases in the icon and subject are from a song Shakespeare wrote and/or incorporated in Twelfth Night:

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

Place your bets now: Those that think I'm going to talk about Dar Williams's song, "When I Was A Boy" v. those who think it's about something else.

Well, it's about something else, although I do love that Dar Williams song, which makes me cry better than 70% of the times I hear it. But I digress.

Consider this the first of what will be a many-part series on books I loved when I was a kid. Because lately, I've been thinking about some of my favorite books, and analyzing what it is I remember about them, and what it was that I liked best about them. Because I have a sneaking suspicion that the stuff I liked about books when I was a kid is the stuff that kids today like about books as well. We shall see, I suppose.

Travel back in time, if you will, to 1974, when I was ten years old. For Christmas that year, I got a copy of Little Men by Louisa May Alcott from my Aunt Janet and her family. I know this, because I have my copy of it right here on the bed next to me. It is from the Bancroft Books Collection, and was published in 1969. And yes, I'm taking this out of order, since I should doubtless be talking about Little Women first, but that shall wait for another day.

What I remember loving about Little Men: I sympathized with Nat the orphan, developed a monster crush on Dan, coveted Daisy's actual cooking pans and stove that worked, but was child-sized, and I remember being terribly upset when the house caught on fire. Really, that's about it. Then again, I only read this book a handful of times, whereas I read Little Women at least a dozen times, including twice as an adult. I recall reading Jo's Boys only once, in which Dan behaves nobly and ends up dead, and I cried for hours. I never re-read the book because it was too distressing to me.

And now, to think about the elements that attracted me to the text, which are wound up with the things I recall liking about the book:

1. Rooting for the underdogs
2. Sympathy for (and perhaps a measure of envy of) orphans. Not that I wished my parents dead, of course, but there was something exotic and appealing about the notion of being an orphan. It's one of those things that seems more romantic in theory than it could ever be in practice.
3. Coveting domestic equipment such as Daisy's cookstove and pans.
4. Adults who were tolerant and encouraged imaginative play.

*ETA: My initial post referred to the pots and pans as belonging to Demi, when in fact "Demi" was the nickname of the male twin. The cookstove and pans belonged to his sister, Daisy. Der.

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( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:04 pm (UTC)
Oh I definitely wanted Demi's stove and pots! Easy Bake, Smeasy Bake. That's definitely what I remember most about "Little Men," as well as Meg's(?) son saying, "Opey doy, me's tummin'" although why that of all phrases sticks in my head I will never know. But you are so right, the encouragement of imaginative play, and of play that produced results (that marvelous stove) and an atmosphere of acceptance for all kinds of children was what sticks with me.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:53 pm (UTC)
I did love my Easy Bake oven, but that push-through tray over a light bulb was nothing compared to Demi's stove, pots and pans.

I intend to keep looking at some of the books I loved, and trying to figure out what it is that has stuck with me all these years later, and why it is that I liked them so much.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:04 pm (UTC)
You can probably guess that for me, it was all about the little pans and real cookstove.

And I was just thinking of rereading LITTLE MEN last night, proving once again that you and I are twins separated at birth.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
Twins indeed. I would still love a small stove, pots and pans, even though I'm completely grown and can use the real ones. You'll see in some future book discussions that small-sized things and domestic equipment turn up in other books I loved.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, boy, did I long for that cooking stuff, too. Making wee little biscuits and cunning pies or whatever, I can't remember, but totally remember kind of drooling over those pages.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, I wanted to make all those real foods, too. Part of it was the notion of making one's own food, and part of it was the idea of having small-sized cookware all my own. It makes me think that including more discussion of food in other books (there is food in the gnomes already), and of the idea of kids making their own food. And perhaps small cookware.
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Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
I loved Little Women too, with a big, big love. I only read Jo's Boys that one time when I was about 11 or 12, because I was so terribly upset by Dan's death. If I ever undertake a project about Alcott (which is a possibility - I've been stockpiling Alcott-related books), I will read it again. Otherwise, not. I can't forgive her for killing Dan off (much in the way that M can't forgive Jo Rowling for the death of a certain young man in HP7).
Sep. 14th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC)
I never forgave LMA for Dan's death or Charlies's in Rose in Bloom (or, on a lesser scale, Jo refusing Laurie - although I sort of understand that one). But I still reread all her books, I just can't escape the stories.

Edited at 2008-09-14 03:25 am (UTC)
Sep. 14th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
I didn't forgive her for Beth's death when I was a kid, but these days Beth's death doesn't upset me. Dan's still does. I haven't read Rose in Bloom yet.
Sep. 14th, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
Oops! Forget I said anything. I reread Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom more often than the Little Women series, to be honest - I had a crush on most of the seven boy cousins at one point or another.

Beth's death is different somehow than the others, maybe because it's loosely based on real events.

My favorite Friends subplot is still when Rachel and Joey agree to trade books and Joey so is traumatized by Beth's death that they agree to put LW in the freezer for awhile (which is what he does with Stephen King's books when they get too scary).
Sep. 14th, 2008 05:05 am (UTC)
I don't recall that episode, but it does sound like Joey.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC)
I loved this book, too. Don't remember many details except that I could always lose myself in the story. And I do think #4 held a powerful sway for me, too.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 10:00 pm (UTC)
I could always lose myself in the story, too. But I'm trying to remember why, for the books I loved as a kid, I loved them, as a means of informing my future writing projects, maybe.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
I should do this, too. But I wonder how successful I'll be in pinpointing those reasons since I've gone back to read books I loved as a child, and couldn't get through them. Hmm.
Sep. 3rd, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)
You'll notice that I'm not actually re-reading the books at present. Just recalling what I can off the top of my head (and with a quick glance at summaries). The books I'll be talking about are, without exception, all ones that I read a number of times. I was an avid re-reader as a kid, and still re-read some books now and again.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC)
All I really have to contribute to this is that I heart Dar Williams.
Sep. 3rd, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)
Me too.
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Sep. 3rd, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)
I've got a thing for underdogs as well. Hence, its placement as number one on the list.
Sep. 3rd, 2008 02:56 am (UTC)
I love this idea for a series of post. LOVE IT! It's interesting how the little-kid sized stove grabbed you...maybe for the same reasons I remember loving The Boxcar Children (at least, book one, don't think I read farther...)...I recall how the one kid had his little cup, and how they put the dairy under the stream to keep it cold, and all the little domestic details...enthralling to me!
Sep. 3rd, 2008 02:58 am (UTC)
I am glad you love the idea, for you are in for MORE OF THE SAME tomorrow. Only about a different book, natch.

I don't remember reading the Boxcar Children books, although it seems like the sort of thing I'd have loved, for reasons which will quickly become apparent as you read about some of the upcoming books.
Sep. 3rd, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
Hey! Published in 1969? Now that was a GREAT year. I was published, I mean born, in that year too.

As a kid,I liked rooting for the underdog too 'cos I always felt like one of them.
Sep. 3rd, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)
I still like rooting for the underdog, and for the same reason. The original story was, of course, published in the 1800s, but my copy is from 1969.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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