Jabberwocky for 2005 January 1 (entry 0)

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[Comments] (2) Alice and Jerry: When I was a little girl, I spent much time at my Grandma Call's house. I think it was because my mother never got along with me, and she wanted to get rid of me every summer. At any rate, there was an old reader at Grandma's house, Friendly Village, part of the Alice and Jerry series. There were not very many other books of interest to a kid, and I "read" Alice and Jerry often, eventually learning to read by reading this book. At some point, perhaps when my grandmother died, I took this book home with me, and with it I taught my own children to read. The stories and illustrations are wonderful.

The Alice and Jerry books have lovely watercolor pictures that turned me into an illustration snob quite young. The stories are also charming, but in the end, the whole series encapsulates a way of life that was dying when I was a child, and is now long gone. I don't know how much of Friendly Village's small town Main Street America aura actually translated into reality, but to a population traumatized by the depression and two world wars, the concept brought great comfort. It brought comfort to me, and I didn't even live through those bad years.

As an adult, I started collecting Alice and Jerry books, and have paid a pretty penny in antique stores for a couple of them. For Christmas, Leonard gave me enough books, bought on ebay, to double my collection, so now I'm all set for bedtime stories on a cold winter's night!

I note that Alice and Jerry were published before the 1950 postwar housewifely sensibility took root, so the books have Alice having adventures with Jerry and their friends, running up the creek and skipping down the road. Because I absorbed this paradigm (and had a rural childhood full of freedom and exploration myself), Dick and Jane, when I started school, set my teeth on edge. I think Dick and Jane really did their share to hammer the postwar sex roles into children, even after their mothers had been strong figures all through the first half of the century. The Dick and Jane calendar I received for Christmas last year finished off December with a whallop. Jane, Grandmother, and Sally are in the kitchen slaving away making cookies, and Dick is standing there with his plate in his hands, ready to eat.

Probably nobody realized this consciously, but subtly it influenced the role attitudes of a whole generation. Including leaders of the Church. Compare with Alice and Jerry, hanging off tree branches and pushing homemade boats up the creek. It's a healthy innoculation against textbook poisoning.


Posted by Leonard at Sat Jan 01 2005 20:23

Just a nitpick: I got the books from Bookfinder, not eBay.

Posted by Rachel at Sun Jan 02 2005 21:29

why is your weblog on the widescreen edition all of a sudden?

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