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nordmann
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PostSubject: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 18 Oct 2012, 21:51

They say that a child's brain is like a sponge - absorbing twenty times its own weight in data every waking minute (or something like that) while all the time storing it up for eventual application at some indefinte point in the future when adulthood kicked in and the "real" world would demand it be recalled. And I've no doubt this is true, but by the same token have you ever wondered just how much of that ingested knowledge will ever really find an application? Or for that matter, could ever find an application? An infinitisimally tiny amount, I was forced to conclude, while idly trawling the web in the recent past and thus stumbling upon a rich a vein of immediately recognised images from that great omnibus of serendipitious fact which was the fiction and non-fiction elements incorporated into boy's comics from what turned out to be their glory years, the 1950s and 60s.




Take this one from The Lion & Eagle. It asks:





And the funny thing is not only that I remember this very conundrum when it first appeared but also, between myself and my brother, that we knew immediately at the time exactly what course of action we, as astronauts, would take. Moreover Lion & Eagle's own "Special-Escape Expert" (no less) agreed with us almost verbatim! (see below for answer)

But it got me thinking. What else did we learn from the pages of such publications? I know my love of history had its origins there - whether from The Look & Learn's weekly biographical sketches of famous men and women or even from The Girls' Crystal's occasional one-pagers featuring knickerbloomered sporting icons from a bygone age. Geography featured too as we followed the pictorial exploits of great explorers, warmongers, runaways and Roy of the Rovers on World Cup duty. Science, literature, religion and even philosophy were all condensed also into palatable strips of sometimes excellent artwork and ladled into our eager young receptive minds in this deceptively simplest of narrative forms. Throw in morality, civic duty and a nascent understanding of the concept of justice too for good measure. These most intangible of concepts were, through dint of them being the very essence of most of the narratives, made tangible for us all at an early age. So early an age in fact that I would find it hard to believe that those same narratives did not play an almost primary role in shaping my so-called adult appreciation of their existence, if not my very moral fibre itself (though why fibres should play a role in knowing right from wrong has never been immediately obvious to me).

Or am I reading too much into publications which I admit I probably read too much at the time?

Anyway - for all you budding astronauts of a certain vintage who, as the Special-Escape Expert says below, might have found yourself in such a dilemma around 1995, here's how to escape the meteor pickle:




(PS - my brother and I would have undoubtedly known also the Escape Expert's constant referral to a "meteorite" and not a "meteor" was terribly ignorant of him. After all, the difference between the two would no doubt have been explained in the previous week's Valiant article "Did You Know ...?")
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 18 Oct 2012, 22:16

I certainly know that virtually all of my interests began in childhood although I don't recall comics being nearly as influential as books. There really wasn't all that much other than 'girly' stories but occasionally something like this




It was all those big, thick, 'Wonder' books that I dragged home from the library, that's where I first found the exotic places, romantic ruins and marvellous discoveries that started me off dreaming. Ankor Wat, Tutankhamen, Pompeii, dinosaur eggs in the Gobi, dwarf elephants; I can still visualise the pages where I first encountered those.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 18 Oct 2012, 22:24

I didn't read those sort of things so much - hardly any comics -, but I know the Anne books of LM Montgomery taught me snippets which I didn't always understand at all at the time, but which have meant that items of knowledge or literature that would otherwise be foreign to me have some meaning or at least recognition. Foxes Book of Martyrs for instance, God and Magog, Biblical and literary references. It probably reinforced my sense of morality rather than leading it, but still I used Anne as a moral compass at times, I think.

I also used to read a large book of moral stories (it also included Bible stories but I mostly ignored those). I am fairly sure they were American - I used to think of Arthur Mee for these, but I don't think it was him at all now, though we may also have had those. They were one or two page things and very moralistic in tone. The one I remember mostly was about a theft in a house where the adults used red paint to catch the culprit (caught red-handed) child. There must have been something that bothered me about this, since I didn't do any thieving and our family didn't have much sense of personal property anyway. Did I think it was an unfair method?

I suppose I picked up a little history and geography from my reading, but nothing very specific. London underlife from Jack the Ripper books? American teenage life from Archie comics? And at least the names of places in parts of the Middle East from many Bible stories. I don't know if knowledge of those heroic people like Scott, Amundsen, Douglas Bader came from reading or just was what everyone knew somehow. Or were taught about? (But Shackleton didn't seem part of my knowledge much till much later.)

I spent a lot of time reading Roman mythology as a child, but don't know what it taught me exactly. Just went with a love of names and family relationships, I think. A knowledge of mythology is handy when reading literature though. I wish I knew more of Eastern and Nordic ones.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 18 Oct 2012, 22:35

There was far more to the girls' comics than simply "girly stories". Embedded within all that undeniably sexist claptrap were some real jewels. Helen Haywood's work for The June & Schoolfriend, for instance, concentrated on the natural world, though she also strayed into etymology and folklore on occasion too.




And I seem to recall a serialised story in The Bunty of all places which followed the tribulations of a young girl "who had no father" and who was being bullied at school for that reason. It would have been from the early 60s so it was very daring for its time. I couldn't understand, having assumed her father must have died, why the other girls would seize on such a misfortune to single her out for vindictive treatment. It took my 11 year old older sister (whose comic I was reading) to sit me down and explain things to me, the penny having dropped for her about three instalments into the story.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 18 Oct 2012, 22:44

By the 60 s I was beyond comics so maybe that's why I don't recall much of those.

When I was 5, my mother, for some quite incomprehensible reason, decided while we were on holiday in the wilds of the West Highlands, to have me baptised in an Episcopalian church by a Welsh vicar. Once I'd been processed he gave me a book called something like 'The Child's Book of Favourite Saints'. At 5 it was somewhat beyond my reading skills but I read it not very much later and what a blood soaked recitation of sadism and horror that was. I clearly recall thinking that I wasn't going to read that horrible stuff again (although I did like St Francis and the little animals) and I didn't. And those were the days when there was all the fuss about 'horror comics' and how they warped a child's mind.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 18 Oct 2012, 22:59

I've had a hunt around and think the stories I read must have been Uncle/ Arthur's Bedtime Stories, and that's why I got muddled with Arthur Mee. http://www.amazon.com/Arthurs-bedtime-stories-Stanley-Maxwell/dp/B00005X1OD

I feel our edition was an omnibus in a blue leather binding, but maybe not. What is shocking in that website are the (modern) comments below. Amazing things to say, but I suppose that's why American political candidates have to claim religious beliefs (not that I mean most of them don't hold them genuinely).

Even things like the English Woman's Weekly (that I read for its romance stories and Mary Marryat advice column rather than these informative bits) had little elements of information of the natural world and mini biographies.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 18 Oct 2012, 23:09

As an antidote to Uncle Arthur we had recourse to The Buster's "Charlie Peace". The real Charles Peace was a 19th century burglar and murderer, an odd choice for a hero one would have thought. Moreover, for the first few years of the strip the stories were set in an extremely dingy and decrepitly dark Victorian London and Charlie, though he never profited directly from his sordid little schemes, often did indirectly "win" in the end through happenstance or having bested someone even more criminal than himself. He spent a few years in the 20th century (having been transported in a time machine which happened to be a safe that he was trying to break into at the time) but before the strip's demise was back in his own time and even eviller than before. It was through Charlie that I learnt first of the Holbrook River in London. I still recall his passage through it while escaping (it's now part of the sewage system). One could never accuse Charlie of having a "heart of gold" under it all, but we did learn from him that simplistic labels for people such as "goodies" or "baddies" (or for that matter "super hero" and "super villain") were perversions of reality.

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 00:12

The only genuine children's book I recall reading was a large compendium that was originally my Uncle's - had much of T H White's Arthur stuff in it, some Anderson & Grimm tales etc. The rest - Black Beauty etc - we did at school, so couldn't be expected to enjoy them.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 05:27

I don't remember reading children's books much either, and comics I never liked although my brother read them avidly. But I really can't recall their being many books in the house and the library was too far away to have been allowed to go by myself. Our parents never took us there either, it wasn't until I was in high school and old enough to be getting myself about that I discovered libraries and books. But by then I wasn't interested in children's reading material.

Possibly it is partly a climatic thing also, we really didn't spend much time inside, our learning was mostly of a practical nature and the enviroment we were growing up in in Australia. What plants and animals were safe and what weren't etc. And when the weather wasn't great my mother teaching me to cook, knit, sew, iron and all those things that were thought 'necessary' for any girl at that time.

Aside from the practicalities, it is school stuff that has stayed in my mind, especially geography. All the capital cities, mountain ranges and rivers of just about every country, although many of the names have since changed. Various science experiments as well, even if the theory has long gone.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 10:38

Caro and ID's points regarding comics, and Gil's point about literature intended for children in general, make me wonder about the redundancy of the term "children's literature" on the whole. As children we read, and indeed read anything put before us more or less, so maybe it is time to broaden the definition to include all that we learnt from whatever literary source at an early age.

I am immediately put in mind of Corn Flakes - purely because the packet stood on the table as its contents were devoured by the assembled assorted juveniles who "took turns" moving the box 90 degrees so that each side's contents became legible in turn to its captive audience (prior to milligrams entering our vernacular the quantity assigned to the riboflavin content in Corn Flaes was "some" - see what I mean about learning things?). Likewise just about anything legible which ended up in the vicinity of the toilet bowl became our tutor. It was certainly there that I first developed an interest in current affairs, albeit affairs already at least a day old and thereby deemed to be printed on paper now assigned a less edifying purpose than feeding the mind. However it vwas always worth reading the contents beforehand (a horrible job to do so afterwards).

Roman numerals I learnt at the Saturday matinee in the local fleapit. Some of the films served up for children's consumption at the joint were ancient indeed, but to know just how ancient required the ability to count like Julius Caesar (and I'm not too sure but that he didn't enjoy some of the same films as a nipper himself).

Actually, when one thinks about it in this broader context the list of sources is almost infinite - constricted only by the child's eyesight. Interest or inclination hardly came into the process at all.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 11:01

How many of us encountered our first words of French on the HP sauce bottle?

"Cette sauce de premier
choix possède les plus
hautes qualités digestives.

C'est un assortiment de
fruits d'Orient, d'épices et
de Vinaigre de 'Malt' pur.

Elle est absolument pure,
appétissante et délicieuse
avec les viandes chaudes
ou froides:

POISSON,
JAMBON,
FROMAGE,
SALADE, &c,

et pour relever le goût des
SOUPES,
HACHIS,
RAGOÛTS,

Occasionally I was given 'The Children's Newspaper' though I can't particularly recall much about it then but I used to have a bound set that had been put together for my husband by his dad.

http://www.lookandlearn.com/childrens-newspaper/
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 11:13

I think children can probably ignore reading material they have no interest in. (And it's not just children who read the cornflakes packet. If there is absolutely nothing else to read, I will still read that.)

I am unsure exactly how I came across things I read. We didn't belong to a library and I had no spending money of my own (and we didn't often go shopping anyway); we didn't get pocket money. My father just bought us what we needed/wanted.

But I did have books and I was given books. I recall being a bit disappointed when I was a teenager and people stopped giving me books for birthdays and Christmas, which indicates that up till then they had. And my grandmother seemed to subscribe to the English Woman's Weekly and the People's Friend from Scotland, and everyone got the NZ Woman's Weekly, I think. It's the first two I remember reading. My father kept a Bible by his bed, but I can't specifically recall reading the Bible though we heard it a lot at church, Sunday School and later in assembly at high school.

People don't read at the toilet any more, do they? I suppose everyone has got more hygienically aware.

Seeing your post, ferval, reminds me of learning quite a lot of foreign country names (Magyar Posta especially) and currencies/capital letters and other information from stamp collections and the lovely books they were put into.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 14:11

@ferval wrote:
And those were the days when there was all the fuss about 'horror comics' and how they warped a child's mind.


Fifty years since these first appeared;



http://www.goldenageofscifi.info/pdf/Mars_Attacks.pdf
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 14:27

I'm fairly certain that Leonard Cottrell's book Enemy of Rome was serialized in Look and Learn,when it [ie EoR] was first published;

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 15:46

@ferval wrote:
How many of us encountered our first words of French on the HP sauce bottle?

Did you really get HP Sauce with French language labels in Scotland? I can't think of many culinary products more proudly British that HP. Wasn't there a scandal recently when it emerged that its manufacture was being transferred to Holland?. So I'm pretty sure in Sussex our bottles were always in good sensible English.

Perhaps your labels in French were one of the last throws of The Auld Alliance?

PS : I've just looked at the bottle I bought at the local supermarché a few weeks ago: the front label that also wraps around both sides is in English... but the back (a separate label) is indeed in French: " Cette sauce de haute qualité est un mélange de fruits orientaux, d'épices et de vinaigre.....". But this is a bottle bought in France and distributed by a company based in Paris. Surely HP Sauce was never smuggled from England to Scotland via France.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 19:53

I'm so old I can remember the first Captain Marvel (predecessor to Superman) comic - Shazam and all that.

Without doubt the best boy's comic was the Eagle: this was even recommended by our school teachers.

With regard to foreign language labels on UK items. I used to look after the exports of a perfume company. All their Japanese exports had labels in English. Why? It was considered the 'in thing' in Japan to have and be able to read English labels. Strange world ain't it?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 20:32

I once worked near the factory that made HP sauce, and we often encountered the staff from it on Friday lunchtimes in the local pub. Having heard their accounts of what went into it, I migrated to Daddies - probably no better, but at least I didn't know.



Our local library had about 1 shelf of "children's books" 3 or 4 of Romany, but nothing else worth reading so I got the old man to sign to say I could have adult stuff - almost all non-fiction, but with a leavening of Tarzan and Alan Quartermain. Why they were considered "adult" now defeats me.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 19 Oct 2012, 20:33



I'm not sure what vintage this label is, MM, relatively recent given the post code, but the French was always on the (only) label. It seems the French was removed in 1980's, prompting, as you might guess, letters to the Times.

"Sir,
Am I alone among your readers in deploring the loss of that much loved and most piquant of French primers - the label on the HP Sauce bottle?
If unfortunate circumstances decreed that there was nothing else to read at the breakfast table one could always turn to the HP Sauce bottle for a little French revision. It will be sadly missed.
- Dr JH Hunter, Frampton On Severn, Gloucestershire."

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 20 Oct 2012, 00:54

Whe I was about 8, I rescued several broken and coverless books of Authur Mee's encyclopedia being used by the neighbour's children as throwing weapons. Many years later I happened on the full set being sold for a song. Browsing through these I realised how much I had learned from them - especially the photographs of sculptures - enough to recognise many in far flung museums later. Those, and a foundation course in birds, flowers and shells which all became life long interests eventually.

And then there was Authur Ransome - from those books I first learned an introduction to the technical stuff about water and water craft just a few yards from my home for another life long interest.

All of that with 'William' and 'Professor Brainstorm' and I reckon I was set me up for life - and possibly where I stopped. Radio was the other great influence and possibly why I never read the sauce bottle or cereal packet stuff.

It is an interesting topic t reflect on because modern children never seem to have the time to lose themselves in books for hours the way I did.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 20 Oct 2012, 05:30

Well modern children are losing themselves but in different ways, the telly and pc games rather than books or outdoor roaming, exploring and imagination games.

Re reading in the loo Caro, I'd imagine some people still do but doctors advise against it. The ones in Aus. did anyway, something about things open longer than necessary and causing hemroids and other unpleasantness.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 20 Oct 2012, 11:37

I stand very much corrected, informed and entertained regarding the HP Sauce label in French... One learns something new everyday here! Incidentally my bottle of Lea & Perrins (which is surely much better known in France than HP) is entirely anglophone. But then I suppose one doesn't usually have L & P on the breakfast table ... unless one habitually starts the day with a Bloody Mary!
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 20 Oct 2012, 12:23

We didn't have HP in our family; my husband, being British did, and thinks the French bit rings a bell. Would you have HP sauce on the breakfast table? I don't like it much.

Although we have Lea and Perrins sauce (and are never tempted by lesser NZ versions) L and P here means something different, though still food related. Lemon and Paeroa is a style of fizzy drink (spa type water, I think) and it's shortened to L and P. (or rather L'n'P) It's rare for me to Lea and Perrins for breakfast but I still quite like it on fresh bread and butter, and that could be at breakfast.

Have to go back to the telly to watch Australia apparently beating the All Blacks at rugby. Might not in the end, perhaps. It's too late a night for my liking.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 20 Oct 2012, 12:54

@Caro wrote:
Would you have HP sauce on the breakfast table?

A good question. I believe strict etiquette says that one should never put sauce bottles on the table ... I was always told (by a lecturer at an exclusive Belgian restaurant/service college, and again by a service trainer for British Airways) that one should always decant/spoon-out preprepared sauces, condiments etc onto a serving dish. I know that British Airways First Class Service requires all sauces like that to be served thus - the only exception is Colman's Mustard - and I believe that is only because Colmans have paid to get priveliged "product visibility", and that they are deemed to be especially 'British'. But of course if one is travelling BA First Class and one asks to have the Lea & Perrins, Tabasco, or HP bottle left on the table, your request should never be refused.

But what one does in ones own home is another matter Wink and yes HP does go superbly well with either bacon sarnies or fried eggs, yum!
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 20 Oct 2012, 21:22

But so does Lea and Perrins, (much better, in my opinion) and you seemed to suggest that wouldn't be used. Anyway, apart from when you are in a hotel, when does anyone have fried eggs or bacon butties for breakfast?

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 20 Oct 2012, 22:07

Snior Monster usually has egg & bacon for Sunday breakfast. Either variety of sauce is acceptable with a bacon butty (more often eaten on Sunday evening as we've had something to eat at my parents in the afternoon and aren't in need of a full meal), The Gaffer tends towards Worcester Sauce, and I usually go for the Daddies.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 21 Oct 2012, 12:11

Getting back to the subject ...

It was rare to find a British comic in which the English were the enemy, a role in post-war comics almost exclusively the domain of Germans and Japanese (British children were invited to continue hostilities with these nations on a weekly basis for nearly four decades after they had ceased in real life). However Red MacGregor, the Scottish outlaw who regularly outwitted, outfought and outstyled (men in skirts!) the nasty redcoats was a truly unique comic hero of the time - and for a long time too. His stories outlasted several comic titles in which he appeared. I remember him from the Rover and the Wizard. As a child forming a nascent appreciation for the maleability of historical "facts" and their manipulation in order to prosecute a contemporary theory, Red was a revelation. Having the redcoats as the heroes in one publication and villains in another set young minds to working out the validity of either standpoint historically.



Red's longevity was of course in part attributed to the titles' origin in Dundee. All the comics he appeared in were printed there by DC Thomson & Co Ltd. The first English-based comic to represent the English/British as the "enemy" that I can recall was Action comic's "Hellmann of the Hammer Force" in the 1970s. Action was the comic that prompted a debate in the House of Commons and which was effectively put out of business by its own publisher IPC, when it censored the content in response. It seemed Britain wasn't quite ready to allow its children follow the weekly exploits of a Panzer Division soldier and his crises of conscience as he careered across Europe and North Africa. Poor Hermann, after censorship, was duly captured and spent his last few ignominous weeks in print as a POW. The House of Commons could sleep safe again ...
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 21 Oct 2012, 17:39

So did we *learn* or were we *indoctrinated*? Hard to tell. Most of my "morality" came from Enid Blyton - an extremely worrying admission these days.

I was very much influenced by a book of hers that I read when I was about ten - "The Land of Far-Beyond" - a Christian allegory which Blyton based on Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress". An interesting review here:

http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/book-details.php?id=358

Loyola, Xavier, Blyton - what a dangerous crew. Was it at seven or seventeen that we were seduced?

Actually it was the weird Horace Knowles illustrations that got to me - will find a link. Back in a sec.

Edit: spelling not so good after a very long lunch on a Sunday.


Last edited by Temperance on Sun 21 Oct 2012, 17:49; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 21 Oct 2012, 17:41

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 21 Oct 2012, 19:08

I've been trying to remember overtly moral tales and all I can recall are the usual suspects: Little Women, Uncle Tom's Cabin, What Katy Did and that blasted Pollyanna who really needed a good slap and a course in existentialism.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 21 Oct 2012, 21:58

There was a character called (IIRC) "Wild Young Dirky" in the Topper who was also a Scot pitted against the redcoats.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 21 Oct 2012, 22:59

Wild Young Dirky of People's Journal fame? You're right there (Topper inherited a few of those). But he only lasted two years, as opposed to Red MacGregor's forty.

How did you feel as an Englishman being at the receiving end of Red's/Dirky's exploits? Did you even notice?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 21 Oct 2012, 23:22

Seeing the Rover comic brought back memories of my admiration for the srtists who did such stuff. It took decades for Pop art to be taken as a serious art form and is still under rated I expect yet considerable skill was used - and it took Picasso for people to understand the skill of the simple line drawing. I interrupt the anti English thread direction - sorry.

(I wonder why it is that most English are not at all phased by anti English sentiment. Do non English find this trait annoying?)
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 21 Oct 2012, 23:33

Who's anti-English, P? I asked a question about Red MacGregor/Wild Dirky who were totally anti redcoat. Did the English children of my generation invent a cultural divide between themselves and the redcoats? Couldn't blame them if they did, given the storylines. But at the same time the redcoats and Clive (who was indeed a total bastard) were being advertised as heroes to the same kids at the same time. I'm just wondering how the English kids dealt with the mixed messages.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 21 Oct 2012, 23:57

Badly worded nordmann - I apologise - not like me to step into the eggshell land of labelling. I was raised in a strongly anti racial environment and made very aware of historical of English failings in both the building and sustaining of her empire. As I recall we were also told in school of the other side to Clive -and the likes of Rhodes, despite what the books told us. Lawrence, on the other hand - being the chap who wanted to help the Arabs was made into a hero. Perhaps I just had interesting teachers.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 22 Oct 2012, 00:02

I'm still wondering. Nice if an English kid of my generation (ie. who read the same comics) could answer me ... (I know the rest of us got some unavoidable perspective)
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 22 Oct 2012, 08:32

@Temperance wrote:
So did we *learn* or were we *indoctrinated*? Hard to tell. Most of my "morality" came from Enid Blyton - an extremely worrying admission these days.


Blyton is a very underrated social influence - her ouvre was devoured by at least two entire generations at an impressionable age, so assimilating at least parts of her world view was pretty much unavoidable. Fortunately though the same ouvre carried quite a lot of mixed messages (as well as quite a few mixed metaphors). On the one hand her world was one in which everything and everybody had a permanent and immutable place and role, an essential element in the majority of political ideologies which require indoctrination to be transmitted. On the other hand however her children were incredibly empowered individuals who often defied attempted parental control in order to pursue truth and justice - a fantastic role model for young readers who might be questioning their own ability to influence their environment, or even just to understand it.

The "Blyton effect" was much mitigated of course by the "Richmal Crompton effect". People with access to one influence were likely to have access to the other. Throw in Elinor Brent-Dyer, WE Johns, Anthony Buckeridge et al and the resulting confusion of ethical messages at least prompted the young reader to be selective about which morals he or she came away with.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 22 Oct 2012, 18:15

@nordmann wrote:
Wild Young Dirky of People's Journal fame? You're right there (Topper inherited a few of those). But he only lasted two years, as opposed to Red MacGregor's forty.

How did you feel as an Englishman being at the receiving end of Red's/Dirky's exploits? Did you even notice?

Well, since (by the origins of my great-grandparents) I'm half Welsh, a quarter Irish, one eighth each Scots and Cornish, I took it on the chin. I went, in later years, to a boarding school where all the major boys comics of the day were in circulation - but the worst influence, IMO, were the "Commando" type stories - I suppose now they'd be called "graphic novellas" but in truth they were just dross.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 22 Oct 2012, 19:32

If my memory serves, on the back page of either the ‘Victor’ or the ‘Hotspur’ they printed a series of VC winners, I found those interesting. Oops, it may have been the ‘Valiant’…
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 23 Oct 2012, 10:42

Yes, boys got a good grounding in recent military history, if a little biased for the "home" side. Captain Hurricane's protracted one-man campaign against the Japanese (don't think he officially stopped fighting until the 1990s some time) was particularly biased. Even as a kid I was uncomfortable with how the Japanese were drawn and how their behaviour was lampooned in that strip. It was only years later when I was talking to a lad at a comics convention which happened to be on in the London hotel where I was staying (I swear, folks) that he told me of the number of survivors of Japanese internment and their relatives who worked over the years in the comic business. Apparently the vindictiveness of the caricatures had led in the end to an inquiry demanded by the Japanese Embassy in the UK and this was conducted as part of a general parliamentary inquiry into the ethics of the business (I think during the early 80s). Captain Hurricane got special mention but also the Commando series mentioned by Gil above came under scrutiny for the same reason. They could be very vicious indeed.



He had only slightly less regard for Germans (sausage chomping krauts) and Italians (perishin' ice-cream wallahs) but reserved his "towering fury" (see above) most often for the piano-toothed weevils.

I wonder what he's up to now?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 23 Oct 2012, 12:34

Though Commando, Valiant and the others were models of historical accuracy compared with their American counterparts;



this particular issue featured Captain Johnny Cloud fighting an ME-109, a Fokker DVII, and a Mig-15 in succession. A bit of time travel never phased anyone.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 23 Oct 2012, 12:38

But you learnt a lot about American appreciation of history (and geography) from such tattle, so they weren't a complete educational loss.

Which was what I was trying to get at previously - the actual values one absorbed and came away with from reading this literature, as opposed to any such values that the author(s) may have been trying to impart.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 31 Oct 2012, 05:23

The Snoopy picture in the Doggy thread reminds me of another form of learning as a child, using music more than literary forms.

I had never heard of Red Barons (ie Richthofen) till a friend and I took a big liking to Schulz's cartoons, and till people started singing about bloody red barons. I think, all the same, it was a while till I realised there had been an actual Red Baron. Other songs have been useful for their historical information too - Sink the Bismarck especially. Davy, Davy Crockett. In fact my war knowledge would have been extended greatly (if not very deeply) if a few more events had been committed to music.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 31 Oct 2012, 08:03

@Caro wrote:
The Snoopy picture in the Doggy thread reminds me of another form of learning as a child, using music more than literary forms. .. Other songs have been useful for their historical information too - Sink the Bismarck especially. Davy, Davy Crockett. In fact my war knowledge would have been extended greatly (if not very deeply) if a few more events had been committed to music.

Gosh, that's really got me thinking about songs which mention historical characters and events. Lonnie Donegan's "Battle of New Orleans" to start off with, but there are so many. Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" covered a good forty years (so to speak) of the twentieth century:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2a2SS0zqmzk
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 31 Oct 2012, 10:22

In pre-"troubles" southern Ireland children learnt from their cradle days a repertoire of ballads concerned with the republican struggle against British dominion. Music lessons in primary schools became history lessons, or at least in so far as we learnt an historical appreciation of the various methods whereby the Irish Republican Brotherhood/Army would eviscerate, exenterate and emasculate their Saxon opponents, along with a whole plethora of other such delightfully fanciful scenarios from long dead wishful thinkers.


One example of such an ear worm which still sends shudders through the medulla oblangata - not for its content as much as for the memory of leathers connecting with outstretched young hands for singing bum notes in our local christianity-run place of torture/education.


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 31 Oct 2012, 12:00

Good Lord, Nordmann, that must have been some place of torture you attended!

But ignoring the lyrics and ignoring the history, that is truly terrible. Musically I mean, it's awful.

Corporal punishment for a few bum notes? For that woeful-w-w-w-warble-warbelling, he deserves the ultimate penalty surely. I mean, sorry, but for an Irish singer that cannot stay in tune with his own group! .... No excuses... pass the Black Cap!
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 31 Oct 2012, 12:14

Quote :
Good Lord, Nordmann, that must have been some place of torture you attended!

In retrospect that's exactly what it was, but round our parts we just called it "school". Tommy Byrne obviously went to a school where bum notes were tolerated - but then The Liberties in Dublin was always a little odd that way.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 31 Oct 2012, 15:49

My first Dinosaur book;

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 31 Oct 2012, 21:36

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 18 Sep 2013, 08:54

Anyone else remember this one? It arrived in our house as a gift from an auntie in Glasgow (that exotic city with access to delights one could only dream about in Dublin). How the little bugger always got it right defeated me for ages, at least whenever the opposition wasn't doing the dirty with a magnet under the kitchen table. But I do owe him several nuggets. The capital of Tonga and what monomers make if several are found together I can trace directly back to the little swiveller.

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 18 Sep 2013, 17:07

Oooh, I had one of those (but probably an earlier edition) - might it have been a particularly Glaswegian thing? Unlike you, I'm afraid I can remember absolutely nothing that I gleaned from it but no doubt it supplied some of the many snippets of information that I took great pleasure in acquiring and then parading at school at every opportunity - insufferable little so and so that I must have been.
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