What books did you love as a child that really DON'T stand up to re-visiting?(90 Posts)
Mine is "Children on the Oregon Trail" - our teacher read it to us at primary school in the top class and I loved it, we made maps of the children travelling across America etc etc. I tracked down a copy for dd and was sadly disappointed, partly because I had thought it was a true life story (it isn't) and partly because it just wasn't as good as I'd remembered.
Phantom Tollbooth and A Wrinkle in Time: both fell flat when I reread as an adult. And I completely don't care about Where the Wild Things Are although it was my absolute childhood fave.
Dogsbody, on the other hand, is still wonderful, even better than I remembered.
DD just got Are you there God It's Me Margaret from library, will have to see what I think of that.
Heidi. Sadly, on re-reading, I realise it's a thinly disguised religious tract!
I saw the header and immediately thought of Children of the Oregon Trail, too. I loved it in primary school, but found the racism shocking when I reread it aged 18.
And Mr Men!
So eye catching when I was small, so tedious to read to DD now. Makes you realise how far picture books have come in the last few decades.
One called The Rainbow Garden or something similar. Spent a couple of years tracking it down because it was the first book that made me cry andninwas desperate to reread it. Got it and realised it's swivels evangelical and overly religious and a bit crap
Sweet Valley Kids/Teen/High. They seemed so grown up and got up to so much fun stuff, now re-reading it I'm like "you are 13 FFS, like that could happen!"
<Clearly reads a lower class of book than other posters>
Flat Stanley - loved it when I was about the age ds is now, bought it for him and what a load of crap!
The Narnia books-the tedious religious stuff/uptight kids went totally over my head as a child!
Green Smoke and Dragon in Danger. I loved them. They are very, very dull and unimaginative.
I've got boxes and boxes of biggles books. When I read them I knew they were dated and could overlook some stuff but tried retreading recently and I can't get passed the racism and sexism at all
I hate Mr Men books, so right, they are tedious in the extreme. I want to get dd famous five books as I adored them, I fear they will not stand up well.
Although I read "The Death of Grass" recently which features a lot of sexism/racism but still loved it (obviously not a children's book though).
GreatCongas, I've got quite a few Biggles books, I have to say I found the first one amusing on re-reading recently just because of the amazing slang. I think even in memory that one was less horrendously sexist/racist though as there just aren't really any women in it and they have quite a respect for the German pilots.
Mrs Pepperpot stories. I loved them, bought them for DD. Ever so dull in hindsight.
The Narnia books, specifically the later ones. Christian propaganda when you read as an adult
Oh yes, mrs pepper pot. Got one from the library - was shocked at how dull it is. In contrast Vlad the Drac which everyone was obsessed with in the last year of juniors had my kids in stitches - they loved it!
I reckon the moomins would have the same effect as mrs pepperpot. They were both quite subtle and calming books to read when I was a girl but wouldn't be exciting or funny enough for today's audience.
Oh I love Flat Stanley, never read it as a child.
When I first re-read Jennings and Just William I was struck by the difference - Jennings is quite flat whereas William is hugely witty and elegantly written. Not surprisingly, William was originally written for grown-ups and she only shifted towards writing it for children after she got feedback that the readers' children were loving it.
But Worrals of the WAAF is one of my top fictional heroines! She can fly a plane, defeat the enemy, come out with a cracking one-liner and still find time to ditch a dull date for a trip to the cinema with her best mate Frecks. 0
I wonder if the Moomins just appeal to some people not others? I never liked them much as a child, nor did DH, but DD was given one of the books and really liked it.
Overall I've been really very impressed by the quality of children's books now especially those for older children and actually I think quite a lot of books from the past don't really stand up in comparison. Maybe there's just more money in childrens books post Harry Potter!
Elf - never heard of her, she sounds FAB! <googles madly>
Point Horror. God I loved them! But they are shite.
I adored Famous Five books as a child. I re-read one recently and the most pleasure I got was the childhood nostalgia. It wasn't as exciting as I remember. I daren't read anymore. However my neice is reading them at the moment and loves them.
Worrals was a female pilot in a series of novels written by WE Johns, who also wrote the Biggles books.
The Famous Five. I adored them and had battered copies of all the books.
I was aware of the sexism and just used to handwave it by thinking "this was written in the past".
But what shocked me on reading some to DS last week was the violence! We had to abandon Five Go Off in a Caravan because the boy who lived in the circus was getting more and more beaten up by his uncle. I remember a bit of "cuffing" but nothing so graphic!
I am beyond shocked to hear about Mrs Pepperpot.
I remember when I was small my mother announcing a project to read "Little Women" together. And I remember her saying - o dear, this is really pretty dull, sorry about that. And what she said was the same as what posters are saying here - when I was small this is just what there was to read! Books are so much better now!
Not just the Famous Five - I couldn't believe how awful the children in Secret Seven were to their siblings. DD got a running commentary on how badly behaved they were and how unkind it was to speak like that
In general though I am still a big fan of old-fashioned children's books. I know they are wordier than is currently fashionable, but I think it's important that children get into the hang of listening to/ reading them (good ones obviously) as otherwise they may have difficulty getting in to literature later on, Shakespeare, Austen, Brontes etc, being thrown by words and concepts before they are able to "get" the story.
I think that would be a shame, but I did study English literature so others may feel differently. I have been reading DS Milly Molly Mandy and other older books and I hope that he will feel comfortable with and not thrown by "old-fashioned" words and concepts when he comes across them in other books. I hope that doesn't sound too snobbish, maybe it does
On the other hand, Willard Price's Hal and Roger books, which I loved when I was young, really haven't aged well either. Well done, "take 'em alive men", at least you're not killing the animals eh? Just dragging them out of their natural environment to stick in your dad's zoo.
Winnie the Pooh - such stilted, old-fashioned English and DW reckons the Milly-Molly-Mandy books start every chapter with the same paragraph about her family...
gazzalw I think they do! But I think children like that. I used to like the fact that Nancy Drew books always opened with a description of red headed Nancy, tomboyish George and plump Bess and their various boyfriends and the fact that Nancy lived with her Dad and housekeeper!
Now Milly-Molly-Mandy I think definitely does still hold up well. I know it has lots of very repetitive phrases about her family, little-friend-susan etc, but I think that is appropriate to the age group and for reading aloud.
Winnie the Fucking Poo. I was so excited about the chance to revisit that series of books when I had children of my own to read to. But their saccharine, arch tone is just nauseating. As a child you only see the lovably vulnerable woodland creatures. As an adult you cringe at the writer's twee-but-somehow-still-quasi-lecherous idealisation of Christopher Robin. <vom>
Anne of Green Gables! So flowery... tried reading it to dd - she fell asleep
Chalet School...endless recapping and repeated storylines about headstrong girls running away, and well brought up Austrian girls.
Pippi Longstocking is actually much better read when you are an adult...I was laughing till I cried over the bit when Pippi is pretending to be a grownup lady talking about The Help/cleaning lady, whereas dd didn't get joke at all, aged 8
Tarzan series I dread reading again...I remember it being tremendously exciting aged 13 but even then I got a whiff that it was vulgar and violent and racist.
And I adored the Moomins, especially the rather elusive Exploits of Moominpappa, but I read it again and it seems...just well so tricksy and elusive, not meaty at all. The Treasure Hunt was my favourite part, but now I can't capture the emotion I had when I read it first or share it with dcs.
And my fave Milly Molly Mandy story is the one where she has a penny and manages to do all the suggestions with it...and ends up with a penny to buy herself sweets!! I have tried to explain the principle to the dcs although again they would never listen to the actual story when the right age.
DS's fave is the one where she makes a tea cosy after gathering all the bits from various sources. DH bloody hates it. "And then Milly Molly Mandy had a black bit and a yellow bit and some rainbow cord and a blue bit and a pink bit AAARGH".
I still love and reread the Little Women books, and the Chalet School and Moomins.
I did my dissertation on Louisa Alcott!
The Beatrix Potter stories. DD is 5 and insists I read them, but I don't enjoy them and I know the story is going over her head. I think she just likes looking at the pictures.
I quite like the Milly Molly Mandy stories - haven't had to explain too many old words or phrases from those, and the stories are just the right length.
The first few Biggles books, the ones set in WW1, stand up to re-reading much more than the later ones, they were written before the series got toned down for children. Lots of hard drinking, swearing, death and depression in them - which is probably quite realistic.
I love B. Potter! Samuel Whiskers was my very first horror story. I found it really scary, especially when read by my mother who was rather phobic of rats owing to one having run out of a rain barrel right up her arm.
I loved the fact that it was possible to get lost an a house's secret structure (in the chimneys, behind the walls etc), so that you were right next to the adults who could help you but still trapped beyond their reach. That really is the stuff of horror films.
I adored reading it to my children.
I love the story where MMM wins a huuuge fairy doll and swaps it for a much smaller but nicer toy
Have just read Milly Molly Mandy to my six-year-old, she loved it! Our favourite story is the one where Father has a bonfire and Milly Molly Mandy, Little Friend Susan and Billy Blunt cook their lunch on it...
I have been rereading Little House on the Prairie series lately, and have had the good fortune to find copies of two books I was missing second hand at school fairs, in the right editions with the right illustrations - yay! I still love those books and will be reading them to the DC very soon.
Also just read The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse - that had stood up well too, although the poor horse's adventures were more traumatic than I remembered. I need to raid my parents' bookshelves again soon.
I liked Little Black Sambo as a child but (unsurprisingly) it's not widely available these days so I can't check how good or bad the story is.
The Nancy Drew books. Admittedly I was (and still am) a total bookworm and would read any old shite, but those were particularly awful. Especially the series aimed at the tweenager market.
I'll have a look through then and find some of the earlier ones (and the worrals) we have hundreds (as dh whinged each time we move house)
The Secret Seven books, and the Five Find Outers. Horribly sexist to the point of tedium. Though most of the rest of Blyton stood up fairly well to rereading.
Adventure in Forgotten Valley was my favourite book as a child - kids get trapped in a valley and meet dinosaurs and cavemen. On reading recently the dialogue was terrible and the two girl characters were solely to make up numbers to the extent that one had one line and the other screamed once in the whole book.
Winnie the Pooh is even more tedious than I remembered, though it's readable if you miss out the asides and humming.
The Phantom Tollbooth was still fantastic, though.
Arcticwaffle, I loved Little Black Sambo and 40 years ago the issues with it went right over my head. I was reluctant to reread it with DCs for obvious reasons. Thankfully it's been renamed and reillustrated as "The Story of Little Babaji" - exactly the same story which I loved with the same weird story about turning tigers into butter and the same cool little boy who escapes the tigers and eats all the pancakes - but he's just not called Sambo this time.
I still love it and so do DCs.
I love Winnie the Pooh - when I read it to DCs I realised how funny it is, really well written.
Also still love Moomins - quite subtle in a way (eg the book where they move onto a small island to live and the family starts to become a bit dysfunctional).
So sad to hear about Children on the Oregon Trail - loved that as a child and have been really looking forward to reading it to the children. We'll see how it goes.
I find DC1 really enjoys having old fashioned books read to her, but reads the modern fantasy stuff herself.
PS agree re Mr Men. It must have been the pictures that attracted me as a child because the stories are very ponderous.
I didn't like Mr Men even as a child (apart from Mr Messy for some reason - it tickled me how he went all smooth when he had been cleaned).
We went on Guide camp and our Patrol Leader was supposed to read us improving literature every day - she chose to read us a Mr Man story every morning. It was incredibly tedious.
"I find DC1 really enjoys having old fashioned books read to her, but reads the modern fantasy stuff herself."
That's interesting - in some ways I'd say I find it the other way around - DD enjoyed reading Anne of Green Gables, for example, although it seemed very wordy to read aloud.
Which reminds me of another book that I remembered as being amazing which really wasn't - Emily of New Moon. I think I really liked it better than Anne of GG as a child, but having revisited it I can see why Anne is the famous book
I'm with you on Children of the Oregon Trail. I bought it a while back as I remembered it being good, and didn't get on with it. Too sentimental. I found Emily dull to read as an adult, as well - I'd remembered her teacher being really encouraging about her poems in a nice way and now I just think he's a wanker with a really shite grasp of literature.
What Katy Did was another one - reading it now I'm just thinking 'what the fuck?! Your daughter has just recovered from a nasty illness, your sister has died after spending her life looking after your household, and you're happily getting your daughter to take on the role too. Employ a bloody housekeeper, man!'
I found The First Four Years really awkwardly written when I re-read it, too. I know she didn't really finish the draft of it, but it's just so stilted and fairly peculiar, too. There's the bit when she goes to the Boasts' house and Mr Boast asks her to give them her baby to adopt because they can't have children, and she gets Almanzo to drive away fast. I mean, I get that it's quite an appalling thing for someone to ask you but I found it really hard to reconcile how she obviously felt about those people, and how she writes about them so lovingly in the other books.
I didn't like What Katy Did much as a child either - not only the housekeeping, but all the saintly 'suffering makes you better' bits. I used to read up to the bit before Katy has her accident and stop there
Agree The First Four Years is a bit oddly written, I never read that one as a child, only up as far as The Long Winter - I'd just assumed it wasn't really finished.
I loved the Little House series, still do. But recently read a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and her books were fairly different from real life. And after she moved away (see Last Four Years) she pretty much never visited her family again. So maybe it wasn't quite as rosy as she described.
I really loved Ballet Shoes as a kid
Got it for dd1, we read it together as it's so bloody wordy (forgot that!) and I confess we both struggled...
Someone on a previous MN thread said she had a row with her mother after her father died, if I remember rightly. But yes, I expect you're right she was romanticizing a bit. I didn't even think about that when I was little reading them (you don't, do you?).
I loved Enid Blyton. read one of my favourites, The Secret Island, to DD recently. I had to either miss out the sexist bits or explain ' things were different back then'. it was also very classest (if that's a word) the children were so rude to servants, PC Plod etc
oh and what about the Phoenix and then Carpet where the girls have to do the darning?!
I had completely forgotten The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse!
Oh dear, I re-read Ballet Shoes at least once a year .
"The Fossil sisters lived in the Cromwell Road. At that end of it which is farthest away from the Brompton Road, and yet sufficiently near it so one could be taken to look at the dolls houses in the Victoria and Albert every wet day."
I love Ballet Shoes too.
'And, if not too wet, expected to 'save the penny and walk'.'
It's funny, because I vividly remember LOVING it... I can still see the images I'd imagined from reading it aged 10 or whatever
But 8yo DD didn't really get into it (though we did finish it, hurrah) and I found it a bit of an endurance test this time round
I also bought Heidi for her at the same time, but she has yet to start it...
She's too stuck on JW
Ah, I can't drive down either road without thinking about the Fossils and the dolls houses!
I wouldn't say "they don't stand up to revisiting" because I still like them,but I tried to read Swallows and Amazons to DS,and we just couldn't do it,it takes so long for anything to happen.
I think that may be because DS isn't a brilliant reader - I think as a fast reader I probably shot through and skimmed over things as a child.
Books were "wordier" though - we read The Eagle of the Ninth (and its sequels) and I was surprised by how complex the writing and sentence structure were.
Still love Anne of Green Gables,Little Women,Winnie the Pooh (funny - and recognisably set in a landscape I know)and I am reading the Moomins with DS at the moment,we are on our third book and he loves them (at age 12..)
I found that the Moomins stood up quite well - they were the books that started DS reading to himself. He also loved Swallows and Amazons - rather to my surprise - I guess they are just as remote a fantasy world as Harry Potter to a child born at the end of the 20th century.
He quite enjoyed the Famous Five (which I loathed as a child) but only as a much abridged audio book. He also loved Winnie the Pooh and the Jungle Book as audio books.
I chucked Stalky and Co at DS a couple of weeks ago, now he has reached the grand old age of 13. That has been a total failure whereas I can remember laughing myself breathless at the dead cat episode (I was an odd child..)
And a book I adored as an 8-year-old was 'The Tree that sat Down' by Beverley Nichols. I bought a second hand copy recently and it was awful!
It is not just the attitudes and customs that date some books so badly - it wasn't until I started reading Stalky again that I realised just how much language has changed. It didn't seem particularly odd to me as a child, but it is very ornate and complicated on re-reading it now.
I really, REALLY want one of my DDs to like Anne of Green Gables...
I also adored the TV series as a child
I like 'wordy' books. A lot of the books we're mentioning and especially the Noel Streatfield ones have a real texture to the description - you can properly see and feel what's being described. There are so many things in childrens' books I loved where the description was so evocative I was really disappointed when I came across the real-life thing later on.
By contrast I think the more modern, dialogue-heavy ones like the Harry Potter books are more cinematic, faster-paced but don't in the same way make you imagine everything.
I remember quite enjoying Biggles when I was at the end of primary school, but the language of those has dated so much I can't cope with them now. Same with the Chalet school.
Does anyone else look back on the Chalet School/Malory towers and similar and think, wow, they were really bullies?! When I was little my aunt commented that she thought the fat girl who didn't like to swim in the freezing cold sea-water pool in Malory Towers had a bit of a point and I had no clue what she meant. I'm with her now!
The Mr Men (and even worse, the Little Miss) books. Dire. Although my old time fave Mr Tickle was ok
I love milly molly mandy but never read it as a child. V disappointed about Biggles
re Malory Towers, YES!
Read some of the 1st term one with DD and it's all a bit hardcore, isn't it?!
DD couldn't get her head round 12y old Darrell being waved off on a train though, so we sort of fell at the 1st hurdle
And the girls being mean to Gwen who was crying because she missed her Mother... and the Mother being described as a wuss for being upset when waving Gwen off
DD2 loves the Noddy books which are quite arduous
Oh, yes. Those bits ... I guess it's how society has changed.
I remembered something else that really doesn't work for me now. There's a famous five book where Anne (naturally! ) makes them all nice comfy bunny-fur blankets by sewing together the skins from rabbits the boys and George trapped while they're all hiding out on Kirrin Island.
At the time I thought how lovely and snuggly rabbit-skin blankets would be.
Now I can only think about uncured skin, with gobbets of rabbit-flesh clinging to it, drying stiff as a board. Ewwwwww!
I've just re-read Ballet Shoes & Theatre Shoes & loved them!!
I've got all my old children's books (hundreds of them!) on a bookshelf in DDs room as my parents downsized & gave them to me & I can't bear to throw them out!
So far she can only cope with Topsy & Tim (she's 3.7). They're all the very early ones & so different from the copies you buy now.
I agree with Mr Men, I've actually given them away as I can't bear to read them.
Some Enid Blyton, like Mr Twaddle & Noddy I find really dull, oh & the Sunshine book of short stories. It sends me into a daze!!
I have really enjoyed reading the 'My Naughty Little Sister' books to the DDs . They've stood the test of time for me
Now Ballet Shoes and all the other Noel Streatfields I have really enjoyed revisiting, and DD liked them too - my only quibble being that she really does recycle her characters quite shamelessly from book to book. Swallows & Amazons too - DH read all 12 to dd as bedtime stories over about a 2 year period, and both dd and lots of her friends really like them (and interestingly the 70s film hasn't dated at all either and is still well worth watching).
Not-so-strangely I suppose the books that still seem to me worth reading are actually the ones that were considered 'classics' all along, on the whole it is the less known works that don't seem to stand up, rather than it being an issue of wordiness. I was still very very disappointed by the Oregon Trail, though
DW had a very nostalgic vision of the birthday party episode in My Naughty Little Sister from childhood. She was so happy and comforted to revisit it several decades later with DD who couldn't quite believe that two children could eat a whole trifle in one episode of naughtiness! But then she isn't a pudding monster!
I bought Mrs Pepperpot to read to the kids, in a moment of nostalgia.
We nearly cried; it was so boring.
Agree - DW tried the Mrs Pepperpot ones with DD recently and they were rejected after about two stories....
DW has been reading The Naughtiest Girl In School stories to DD recently and they've gone down reasonably well - the culture of high tea with not a fruit or veggie included seems a very alien concept to DCs brought up with the 5 fruits/veggies a day mantra! Also, it's all about being beastly and horrid and then discovering a nicer side to oneself and these issues of bullying, insecurity etc...are sadly still very much with children in the here and now...
I still like Anne of Green Gables and Ballet Shoes, and the Katy books (excluding Clover and In the High Valley which were always rather ropey), on re reading to my own children.
Blyton, most of Blyton too, not so much.
We read a Mrs Pepperpot story a night from a bumper book of collected stories, recently. They weren't as wonderful as I remembered, but the children did like them.
I took Swallows and Amazons to read to DS while we were camping on the shores of Windermere.
I still loved it... he fell asleep .
The Mr Men are incredibly tedious and not very well written.
The Beatrix Potter books are so dated that DS struggles to relate to them.
I also loved Ballet Shoes, White Boots etc as a chid but reading them to my We are now on the last of the Gemma series and are both enjoying them as the chapters are shorter and much easier to read. DH on the other hand finds them dull and reads the naughty little sister books to her instead which we all love and those have never shifted in my mind as anything other than great however it's hard to explain about the coal man to my DD or the chimney sweep and the fact little sister goes to school one day with her big sister as mother had an appointment she couldn't take a child to - always wondered what that was
perhaps a smear test or similar
When I first read Malory Towers as a child I idolised Darrell. Upon reading them to my daughter I realised what a nasty bad tempered bully she was.
Either I have no taste (quite possible!) or I just haven't read enough Mr Men books -on every thread like this posters appear saying how dire they are,but I always rather liked them.
Apart from anything else they are funny,a bit - always a plus at bedtime IMO!
It's been a while since I had a re-read of the Little House books, but I do think they've stood up well. DS has read Little House in the Big Woods, but not any further yet. So far all the childhood favourites I've re-read have stood up well, however I haven't read any Enid Blyton since I was about 11 although I still have all of my books from then. Have tried to get DS to try the Famous Five or the Five Find Outers, but he just hasn't bitten yet. From many comments I suspect these will be a major disappointment if I do read them.
I'm trying to find my Swallows and Amazons books, I've got just over half the set, but can't remember where they got packed away. I think DS might actually enjoy those as he and DD recently watched the film of the first book on the telly and enjoyed it. The stumbling block might be the sailing jargon. I loved Biggles books as a youngster and fortunately FIL has quite a few, so both he and I were keen to get DS hooked. We started him on Biggles Learns to Fly when he was in Y2, but he couldn't get past the first half dozen pages. Two years on, after reading a lot of non-fiction about WWI, he raced through it. He just needed to understand the references.
A friend and I were recently discussing modern kids reading books which were already old when we were kids and we agreed that the gap between the books' worlds and our world was big, but many things in the books were still within living memory, albeit our grandparents. Now the gulf is so great, and the kids don't hear such things discussed at all, so a lot of the references are a major stumbling block.
The Bobbsey Twins. I found a couple in my mothers attic recently and couldn't get past the first few pages. When I was a kid I used to scour the library for these.
Willard Price is hilarious. When reading them to DS I used to get the giggles because at the moments of great danger- just about to be charged by a croc/tiger/rhino etc- Hal would go into a 5 page lecture about the animal in question. You want to shout at him to shut up and move.
I loved Emily of New Moon and have pressed it upon DD without actually re-reading it myself.
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