My wife recently came home with a box of children’s books that she picked up from our local op shop; books dating back to the last century and ones that you’d likely never see published again (not in this lifetime anyway). Both of us find something enjoyable about these old books that come from a more innocent era when they were written with no offence intended, no double meanings and written for pure joy and entertainment. It was a time when boys could be boys and girls could be girls, living adventures that they found within these books when televisions were few and far between, mobile phones weren’t even imagined and computer games non-existent. I wrote about this some time ago and this collection of books made me revisit that story with a short update and some new thoughts.
One of the issues, as I pointed out in that other story is the onslaught by Social Justice Warriors (SJW) always looking for something to offend them, not just what might truly be offensive, but for anything to use as an excuse for offence. While straying a little off-topic, here’s another example of where this has all gone in the last few decades. Far from reaching its peak, SJWs attack anything and everything, as every last stone is turned over in case something horrid, in their eyes, lies underneath. In a very recent example, a SJW became severely triggered and has demanded that a Phoenix (Arizona US) restaurant remove a photograph of a group of coal miners at a pub, taken possibly around the turn of last century, because it’s racist. The racism is because these coal miners are covered head to toe in coal dust and this particular SJW sees it as representing blackface. Perhaps Google images should also remove the majority of photographs in its records of coal miners, because that’s exactly what those photographs show as well, given that coal mining was and is a dirty and dangerous job. Photographs of such miners are even considered fine art.
Anyway, back to the story. The books that my wife collected were once again written to provide reading enjoyment to the youth of the day with tales of adventure and daring do, things to spur the imagination of young minds, as well as getting them to read. I really do think that these types of books are the last of their kind and quite possibly may never be reproduced by writers again, as they transgress so many SJW standards and touch on so many modern day taboos. The books that my wife found in the op shop are all aimed at boys, so it would have been interesting to know the background of the owner of these books. There are many very old residents in the township and I’d hazard a guess that these books come from a deceased estate where the family is clearing out childhood bookshelves, and judging by the nature of the books, the owner was clearly a fan of wild west stories when young.
Now of course all such stories are mostly frowned upon, if not completely banned nowadays, as they depict guns, violence, savage Indians (rather than noble savages), lawlessness etc, everything that supposedly no longer exists in today’s society. But what it also bans is an understanding of history. The stories in these books may not be entirely accurate, but they reflect life as it was, more or less, back in those days. Because such tales may no longer be discussed, it doesn’t change the fact that such events existed and that life was quite different in the 1800s. How many modern children’s books talk about life in the past? From what I gather, the Australian history that I was taught at school has been completely dropped in favour of some watered down versions of what some think history ‘should’ have been. If our early settlers are mentioned at all, it’s to decry their supposed savagery.
Interestingly, some of these books contain some lessons for the readers, providing perhaps valuable information for at least US kids that read these books. I wonder how much Australian kids could similarly learn about survival techniques and bush medicine etc, were such things incorporated into books that were of actual interest to young readers. But I suspect that any modern writers that could actually write about bush lore and survival and weave it into exciting tales to inspire young readers wouldn’t find a publisher interested in printing any such book, it simply wouldn’t be ‘woke‘ enough for the modern day reader, if any still exist. And I certainly prefer the other definitions of (woke).
The book selection did also have a few other books that weren’t ‘Cowboys and Indians’ related, one being depicted in the first photograph, which was a collection of all manner of stories and cartoons, both true life and fictional. And the wording in some of the tales made me smile, given how regular words from those bygone days have taken on quite different meanings today. And with The Boy – The Australian Boy Annual, how many modern books will have a colour plate of Sir Donald Bradman or similar, or show you how to make a valve radio, or stories such as the Russell Street Police Headquarters Wireless Patrol? Sure the stories are dated, but what modern book brings together such stories in a modern context? And the Big Black Horse was a nice story indeed.
Sadly, instead of showing interest in real books, the youth of today appear engrossed in Fakebook sorry, Facebook, with all the sordid issues that come with that platform. And instead of delivering positive messages such as these old books did, modern technology does quite the opposite. I think the editorial note from The Boy sums up my thoughts exactly (something stated in the 50s is clearly so true today, yet all too often ignored):
Reading is a worthwhile pastime, as it profits not only your mind, but also your body. It enables the mind to escape into the land of adventure and imagination, and to learn something each day, while the body relaxes.
As you grow older, each year seems to become shorter than the last, and by the time you are a man, relaxation is almost impossible to find among the many cares of the day – so relax and enjoy yourself with this new volume of ”The Boy”