Kids Goggles and Books

Hey guys!  Hope you are all doing well.  I’ve had a rough couple of weeks.  Being sick for 6 weeks was not only unpleasant but it messed up my sleep patterns and I’m not sure how to get things back on track.  I’ve been unable to go to sleep until 3am plus.  To make matters worse I end up working in the early hours because I have to use the time for something and make up for some lost morning time.  The whole thing is a huge problem.

Anyway, I’ve also been reading a lot lately.  Last month for book club we read the children classic Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  This is a book I remember reading as a child and finding totally engrossing. It tells the story of a Danish family who, along with others, helps Jewish families out of Denmark to Sweden during WWII.   It is a very good piece to introduce children to the idea of WWII and the Holocaust without beating them over the head with it.

That said…I found this read through to be tough going.  Even though it is a very short book it felt very long (and this from the girl who reads North and South twice a year!).  Everything was so predictable and I wasn’t engaged at all in what was happening.  I could still recognize why I might have enjoyed it as a child, but as an adult I did not enjoy reading it.

I’ve had this happen several times in the last few years where something I loved in childhood does not hold the same charm to me as an adult.  Have you ever had this happen?  Of course, some things I liked then I like now such as Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden.  Some things I didn’t like then but like now such as Wrinkle in Time.

As I’ve wondered about these differing reactions it made me realize I am not very good at looking through ‘kid goggles’.  What I mean by that is I cannot imagine what a child would think about a book and then somehow get more out of it because a child would get more out of it.  Some people can do that, like my sister Megan, but I cannot.

All that I can do is like something for who I am now and the personal filters and needs I have now.  Even if I did try to guess what a child might think or react I would probably get such guesses wrong. I mean with my younger siblings I rarely was able to gauge what they would like or feel comfortable with.

Even if I did guess what a child would like does that mean that I have liked it any more or less?  I don’t think so.  If I like it, I like it.  It’s that simple.   I can respect it and realize it just isn’t for me but I can’t look through kid goggles and pretend to enjoy something that I’m not enjoying. Other people seem to be able to do this but I can’t.

Now if someone asks me ‘do you think Madeline will like this book?’ then I can go back and think of that particular teen/child and decide if they would like it but making a judgement of ‘well I thought it was boring but I think the kid-me would have liked it’.  That’s probably not going to happen.

It might just me but it seems like the older I get the more picky I am but then again I like my share of indefensible fluff so who knows.  I guess I like what I like and sometimes what I like changes.  Is that convoluted enough for you?

What about you guys- do you find there are things from your youth that are hard for you to get into as an adult?  What is it?




6 thoughts on “Kids Goggles and Books

  1. If you think this might adversely impact your relationships with nieces and nephews, a brief brush-up on developmental psychology will help. Then give yourself a few days of practice reading from books held upside down, after which you can volunteer once or twice a month to read aloud at your local public library’s children’s department story hour. Observe the kids’ reactions. Kids are not critical of readers, and soon you’ll have quite a large fan club, especially if you ham-up your reading with voice characterizations.

    1. That’s a lovely idea and one that would be fun. I don’t think this will impact my relationship with my nieces as I still see why they like the books because I remember what they meant to me. My niece is a huge reader so it’s fun to talk to her about whatever books she’s into (talking about a book can be the best part of reading!)

    2. But it is surprising when you find something from your youth that you aren’t a big fan of now. Reading Roald Dahl again was a big eye opener for me last year where as an adult the prose felt so dark, gloomy and almost all the women are beasts. I grew from being a huge fan to more marginal fan. Especially stark for me was his book Boy about his childhood. I remember it being so funny as a child but as an adult it seemed to have nothing but one caning after another. I felt slightly traumatized and certainly wasn’t laughing. Aside from one funny scene with a mouse at the beginning I found myself wondering ‘what on earth did I think was funny?’.
      But I don’t think that can be helped. I’m not the same person as I was then so just as an child shouldn’t need to look at a book through an adult’s eyes neither should an adult. I look at it with the eyes I have and anything else is simply guessing. Who has time to guess while reading! 🙂
      Anyway, it’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed with me.

  2. My childhood reading matured fairly quickly, jumping from Little Golden Books to The Bobbsey Twins and Thornton W. Burgess animal stories; then Laura Ingalls Wilder (by the time I was 8 years old), and abridged editions of Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Mark Twain. My older cousins liked Nancy Drew, but I got bored with her and with The Hardy Boys. I can remember enjoying Alcott’s “Eight Cousins” and “Rose in Bloom,” but I just couldn’t get into “Little Women,” and never tried anything else by her. My mother had begun reading Kipling aloud to us when I was 5 or 6, and she had fabulous talking book recordings of Cyril Ritchard reading Lewis Carroll, and Hans Conried reading Robert Louis Stevenson, and somebody else (maybe Alexander Scourby) reading Dickens that she frequently played on the “hi-fi,” (and that I recall playing on the portable box turntable she bought for us), so I was probably reading them by the time I was 10. I was into Zane Grey westerns and Sherlock Holmes when I was 12, at which point I also had the run of my mother’s massive library of mainly ancient and modern classics, and some contemporary fiction, in many genres (but only a couple of Victoria Holt gothics, and absolutely no category romances, such as Harlequin). I also read the Bible, Webster’s dictionary, multi-volume medical, natural history, American history and other encyclopedias and non-fiction in her collection, plus biographies I borrowed from the public library. So, my reading experience was that of a very different generation.

    But something similar to your reading epiphany happened with me and animated productions. I grew up with Disney (animated only – even as a child, I detested his hybrid live action-animation features and all-people programs and films), and watching Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera and Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons on television. Disney re-released Pinocchio to the cinema during my first pregnancy, and after I went to see it, I decided, “I am not going to show this movie to my kids!” It was horrifically violent – no wonder I had nightmares when I was a child. Then, when I thought of the other Disney animated films, I realized they were all that way, so they all went into the PG-13 category. I’m not sure whether my kids ever chose to see any of them.

    TV cartoons were a little different. For some reason, Hanna-Barbera features fell off the radar quickly, and they weren’t available when my kids were young, but when I thought about them, they just seemed like a senseless waste of time, although I decided that The Flintstones would be inappropriate because Fred was devious and conniving (which is why my kids didn’t watch The Simpsons until they were older). Warner Brothers cartoons hung around longer, although they went low-budget and the animation quality deteriorated badly. WB cartoons were pretty dumb, too, but they sometimes employed irony, and they frequently used classical music for soundtracks, so I didn’t censor them.

    Rocky and Bullwinkle were another thing, though. They were always a low-budget production, but when they came back to TV briefly in the early eighties, I was astonished to discover that they really had been written for adults, not children. The satire, irony, punning, and other plays on words were fabulous, and when they were released to videotape, I bought all I could find, and my kids watched them, too.

    I think the main thing that attracts children to storybooks and animated features is the colorful artwork, or what we call in our house, the “Ooh, shiny!” effect. After that come simple jokes and pratfalls. Most everything else in the prose or scripts goes over their heads until they’ve begun to develop adult patterns of thought, and begin to retain syntax, cultural and historical referents. Until then, names like Whatsamatta U., Snidely Whiplash and Natasha Fatale are meaningless, as well as Boris Badenov’s name being a play on that of Tsar Boris Godunov, and that there’s a double-entendre to the label in his suit coat, which reads, “Hart Schaffner & Karl Marx” (which also may be more meaningful to those of us who were raised in Chicagoland).

    1. Last year I watched all of the Disney movies in chronological order by their release date and one of the things that amazed me is how grown up the stories are. Things like Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi all deal with pretty grown up concepts. Even the smaller scale movies like Wind in the Willows and Ichabod are very dark (I mean toad goes to Hell so doesn’t get much darker than that). I’m not convinced that is such a bad thing because Disney had the guts to have real conversations with kids about things like heartbreak, repentance and death. Some of his early stuff didn’t even have a strict narrative like Fantasia. I mean that is bold to think that just your illustrations and classical music will entertain kids. That would never be made now. I like that they challenge kids and dare to get them asking the tough questions. One gets a feeling that entertainment wasn’t just about being entertained back then. In the early days Disney was doing things that are artistically so striking.
      But I agree with you about them being being more for grown ups. It’s interesting. I think kids also respond to things like Roald Dahl because the kid is always the smartest person in the room. Kids love that. They are the heroes and teach the adults what is right. Maybe that is why they seem kind of gruesome now because I’m not a kid with that sense of relating to it.
      I totally agree with you about Pinocchio. That whole turn into donkey thing freaked me out. The Avengers is the most disturbing one. I mean a little girl gets abducted, forced to go down into a cave and treated terribly. It’s super intense!

    2. Oh and I think the difference between Disney now and back in the day is that the old movies were made to be seen one time by most kids. There is something about presenting a kid with dark imagery, thoughtful ideas and challenging concepts once but on repeated home viewings seem pretty intense and adult. I mean with Fantasia and Pinocchio it’s one thing to see it once and be dazzled but to watch it again and again you see more of the flaws.

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