Step Back in Time to See Our PC World
Stewart, Mark, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Who says time machines don't exist?
A time machine was deposited on our doorstep recently in the form of a worn cardboard box crammed with books my sister and I read 30 years ago, when we were children. My parents come across treasures like this every so often - toys and books we grew up with - and bring them over. Some we keep, some we give away, some we throw away.
The books, we're keeping. Sean, our 4-year-old, devoured them one after another, and we haven't gotten tired of reading them to him.
As we read, though, my wife, Lisa, and I made some startling discoveries about how our times and culture have changed over 30 years and how those changes are reflected in children's literature.
For instance, we were amazed at how politically incorrect children's books from the 1960s were. In one book, "The Story of Me," a boy is pictured carrying a makeshift gun - a wooden block and stick tied together - into the woods, where he meets a bear that becomes his friend. A gun? Are you kidding me? Do you think any book publisher today would give a second glance to a book featuring a child carrying his stick gun into the woods?
Another book features two children going through a museum. On one page they go past an exhibit featuring guns. See the paragraph above.
The casual violence in these books also sticks out. Lisa and I have talked about what most parents probably know already - namely, how violent fairy tales and Mother Goose rhymes and stories are. Nothing is left out in these books from the '60s. In "Jack and the Beanstalk," the giant is pictured walking through his house with three dead pigs - his intended breakfast - hanging from his belt. Think the folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would allow a picture like that in "Jack and the Beanstalk" today? "Puss in Boots" has similar details.
For my money, the worst offender in this '60s collection is "The Little Match Girl," in which the protagonist, through the course of the book, slowly freezes to death. …