Back to the Classics

Sometimes I get tired of all this new fangled stuff. Not that books written today aren't written well, but sometimes I yearn for that classic lingo, the overly detailed paragraphs, and the lyrical way in which words jump from the page. I have spent the past few years reading new book after new book often feeling guilty when I want to re-read a classic (or something classic to me) because I know that this blog is sitting here and my readers want new books. Perhaps it is time to go back to the classics though, help children re-discover the magic of Peter Pan and The Secret Garden. The beauty of Heidi or adventure in The Enchanted Castle.

As an author, I am constantly told how important beginnings are, how you must find that perfect hook that will grab the reader and make them want to read the next sentence and paragraph and page. However, the classics defy this logic, which frankly makes me happy. You mean kids can read books that don't begin with some hook that defies logic? So here are the openings to some of my favorite classics, which are fantastic and I have read in the past few weeks.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too. She had a little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another. Her father had held a position under the English Government and had always been busy and ill himself, and her mother had been a great beauty who cared only to go to parties and amuse herself with gay people. She had not wanted a little girl at all, and when Mary was born she handed her over to the care of an Ayah, who was made to understand that if she wished to please the Mem Sahib she must keep the child out of sight as much as possible. So when she was a sickly, fretful, ugly little baby she was kept out of the way, and when she became a sickly, fretful, toddling thing she was kept out of the way also. She never remembered seeing familiarly anything but the dark faces of her Ayah and the other native servants, and as they always obeyed her and gave her her own way in everything, because the Mem Sahib would be angry if she was disturbed by her crying, by the time she was six years old she was as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived. The young English governess who came to teach her to read and write disliked her so much that she gave up her place in three months, and when other governesses came to try to fill it they always went away in a shorter time than the first one. So if Mary had not chosen to really want to know how to read books she would never have learned her letters at all.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, "Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!" This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

From the pleasantly situated old town of Mayenfeld a footpath leads up through shady green meadows to the foot of the mountains, which, as they gaze down on the valley, present a solemn and majestic aspect. Any one who follows it will soon catch the pungent fragrance of grassy pasture lands, for the footpath goes up straight and steep to the Alps.

The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit

There were three of them Jerry, Jimmy, and Kathleen. Of course, Jerry's name was Gerald, and not Jeremiah, whatever you may think; and Jimmy's name was James; and Kathleen was never called by her name at all, but Cathy, or Catty, or Puss Cat, when her brothers were pleased with her, and Scratch Cat when they were not pleased. And they were at school in a little town in the West of England the boys at one school, of course, and the girl at another, because the sensible habit of having boys and girls at the same school is not yet as common as I hope it will be some day. They used to see each other on Saturdays and Sundays at the house of a kind maiden lady; but it was one of those houses where it is impossible to play. You know the kind of house, don't you? There is a sort of a something about that kind of house that makes you hardly able even to talk to each other when you are left alone, and playing seems unnatural and affected. So they looked forward to the holidays, when they should all go home and be together all day long, in a house where playing was natural and conversation possible, and where the Hampshire forests and fields were full of interesting things to do and see. Their Cousin Betty was to be there too, and there were plans. Betty's school broke up before theirs, and so she got to the Hampshire home first, and the moment she got there she began to have measles, so that my three couldn't go home at all. You may imagine their feelings. The thought of seven weeks at Miss Hervey's was not to be borne, and all three wrote home and said so. This astonished their parents very much, because they had always thought it was so nice for the children to have dear Miss Hervey's to go to. However, they were "jolly decent about it , as Jerry said, and after a lot of letters and telegrams, it was arranged that the boys should go and stay at Kathleen's school, where there were now no girls left and no mistresses except the French one.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.

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Jess said...

I read Anne of Green Gables out loud to my belly during my 1st pregnancy.
I cannot wait to read these books with my girls. Is that weird? That I get really excited just thinking about days where we get all comfy (I'm homeschooling, they are almost 1 and almost 4) and spend time reading aloud and to ourselves.

carolyntbj said...

I too keep coming back to the classics too. Have you ever read "Swallows and Amazons" series by Arthur Ransome? I love Most LMMontgomery, Gene Stratton Porter. AAMilne. The Little House books. Robin Hood. Otto of the Silver Hand. Wind it the Willows is a great read-aloud.

And anything by Margaret Wise Brown, classic Little Golden Books, A Hole is To Dig, Trouble for Trumpets, books illus by Barbara Cooney, The Little Engine that Could, Mother Goose, etc, etc.

YA/Adult (I was a voracious reader so I read some of these way earlier that most) - Dumas, Tolkien, some George MacDonald, Jane Austen, Sayers, Verne, Sutcliffe, Heinlein, I Robot and the other robot books by Azimov, Kipling, Service, London, Van der Post.

Looking at my bookshelf, there are very few books that are published/written in the last 30 years. Thoene, Pratchet, Peretti, Oke, McKinley, Mains, Lackey, Kingsbury, Fforde, Cornwell, Coville, Card, Bujold, and a handful of other scifi/fan authors.