When I was a kid, the big Saturday outing was going to the library. We could get ten books each, and then Mom could get some kind of a break for herself during the time it took us to read them. There’s so much great new stuff coming out now that I don’t often go back and reread the books I loved so much then.
Recently, however, I came across a copy of the first book in The Happy Hollister mysteries. Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly and Sue had the kinds of adventures that Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys might have had in a bigger family. Our family had five kids, just like the Hollisters, I was a huge fan of Scooby Doo, and I liked to imagine myself in a family of crime-solvers. Would I be kind to everyone, like Pam, or be the tomboy, like Holly? Could I outsmart the bad guys?
It’s a bit dated, of course. “Oh boy, this is keen! He’s really pulling it swell!” exclaims Ricky one afternoon while they’re trying to have their dog pull a cart. (Good idea? Well, maybe not.) When they go to the police to turn in the bad guy, the young officer says, “We can’t have a character like Bo Stenkle running loose around Shoreham.” Oh sure, those police officers are just hanging around, drinking coffee and waiting for kids like the Hollisters to point out all the troublesome characters. It was a kinder, gentler period of crime, I guess.
Other books are more able to weather the passage of time. A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg tells the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine as she’s waiting in Heaven for King Henry II to arrive. Other historical figures appear to help tell the story. Eleanor was opinionated and powerful, and her life had many struggles, so there’s plenty to discuss. When I reread this one recently, I noticed how nuanced Konigsburg’s portrayal of Eleanor was. I’ve since read a lot of historical fiction about Elizabeth I, Eleanor, and others, and this book was the perfect introduction to them. It opened a world of children’s and teen historical fiction to me – a way to learn more about the past outside of the covers of a history textbook. Now I wonder, what other books and characters should I go back and spend a day with?