Remembering the books that taught us more than we ever cared to learn.
It’s International Children’s Book Day! We at The Sensible Nonsense Project celebrated by curling up with some old friends and a classic or two. How about you?
The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit
Sylvia Plath’s little-known and lovely vintage children’s book, a charming cautionary tale about the perils of self-consciousness, with wonderful illustrations.
"When I was eleven, I didn’t know I was gay; I only knew that I felt different from other people, even from my own family. I was beginning to try to put together the puzzle pieces: I knew I liked boys, the clothes they wore, and the things they did, but I knew I didn’t want to marry one… I had to go underground.
Enter Harriet M. Welsch, who became my role model and savior. I read Harriet the Spy soon after it came out (and I now bless the school librarian who put it on the library shelves for me to find). I was absolutely shocked by it at the time. Shocked that Harriet could defy her parents and her friends and still survive. Shocked that she loved and missed Ole Golly so much that she threw a shoe at her father to express her anger. Shocked that an adult author could know so well what really went on in the minds of children.
But the thing that shocked me the most about Harriet was her cross-dressing. It’s an aspect of the novel that girls today would miss entirely (thank goodness!), but in 1965 Harriet’s spy clothes struck me as revolutionary. Back then, girls in blue jeans and hooded sweatshirts were uncommon, though not unheard of. But Harriet’s high-top sneakers were solely boys’ wear…
I’ve read elsewhere of women my age who were inspired to keep notebooks and start their own spy routes, eat tomato sandwiches, and leave anonymous notes after reading Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret. At eleven I didn’t particularly like tomatoes, didn’t have the patience to write, and already had a spy route, so I wasn’t inspired to start any of those things. What Harriet did inspire me to do was to experiment with cross-dressing. I used whatever money I earned doing odd jobs to buy boys’ clothes on the sly and then went into other neighborhoods to play at passing as a boy. When an old man in a grocery store called me “Sonny,” I knew I had passed the test. It was remarkably easy to do, and it was as deliciously thrilling as sneaking into Agatha K. Plumber’s dumbwaiter."
~ Check out this essay at The Horn Book, in which author Kathleen T. Horning suggests that, as a queer kid in the ’60s, reading Harriet the Spy saved her life — or, at least, made it a bit more comfortable.
Check out this essay at The Horn Book, in which author Kathleen T. Horning suggests that, as a queer kid in the ’60s, reading Harriet the Spy saved her life — or, at least, made it a bit more comfortable.
“Once upon a time…” is not the only way to begin a children’s book. So hard to pick just 5 when there are dozens that could go on this list, but here are some opening lines that make us want to read these stories all over again!
We’re speechless… and also curious whether we would ever be able to eat any of these cakes, let along cut into one of them. But, we want one anyway.
Of course, we also think that you should read the book while you eat its cake doppelganger, so why not visit NYPL’s online catalog and pick one up today!
Admittedly, these are not all children’s books — but check out that fabulous bottom row!
Spring Break 2013: Philadelphia Libraries.
Your humble Sensible Nonsense Project blogger has been asking readers to share their favorite books with the young people in their lives, but remember — you don’t have to buy them! Use your local library. They exist, and they’re amazing!