This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Monday, October 6, 2008

First Term at Malory Towers is dated but delightful

Now, you see, this is what I wish kids were still reading. Good old fun stuff with no mention of wetbars anywhere to be seen. Kids just being kids, getting into mischief, making friends, unabashedly loving their schools, having fun. Apparently, at some point in history kids enjoyed this sort of thing.

Some kids, the kind who like old-fashioned stories, still will. There are plenty of old-style or at least very Englishy, terms here like 'jolly,' 'hark,' 'hols' for 'holidays, and 'dormie' for dormitory. Characters feel swells of love in their hearts for their boarding school, Malory Towers, and the author's not writing it out of sarcasm. No worrying about being nerdy (or dorky or whatever the kids call it these days). The book is as unashamed of its own feelings and statements as tiny children are. When was the last time you saw a child of three worry about being cool? You don't because they don't. And neither does this book.

This story of a girl's first term at a boarding school is not the tightest writing. It's just fun. No big storyline is really carried through the novel; it's just a string of engaging events linked by the theme of a student's first year. The point of view is sometimes from one character, sometimes from another in a way that is just simple rather than confusing. This is not great literature in the tradition of Pride and Prejudice but it's great anyway and is, in its own way, a classic.


Shimona said...

Oh, the memories you've brought back! Because I did read the Malory Towers books - a couple of them are still on my bookshelves, together with the entire St. Clare's series, also by Enid Blyton. I still remember the vicarious enjoyment of the midnight feasts, the tricks they played upon their unfortunate teachers, the oh-so-British code of honour that held sway at both schools. Jolly hockey sticks and who's for a game of tennis?
I think, though, that the boarding school genre still has a powerful hold on the imagination. Actually, J.K. Rowling also used many of the conventions of the genre in the Harry Potter books, especially the earlier ones, wouldn't you agree?
I do wonder, however, about the books kids read today - are publishers catering to a real demand, or is it they who are pushing more "adult" subjects and the kids are reading them because that's what the publishers are plugging?

Jemima said...

I totally agree about the boarding school allure and JK Rowling's use of it in the Harry Potter series. Even as an adult it is such fun to vicariously live through the experience of boarding school even, of course, if boarding school is quite different in real life.
I think that, unfortunately, there is a demand for today's kids' books, but I'd theorize that the demand was probably generated by adults who wanted to do something different. Actually, pop culture has become more and more "sophisticated," so to speak, and this probably has gradually affected the book industry. A thought occurs to me that kids need to learn from books, so some mature material sensitively handled is in order. What I have a problem with is the superficiality, glamourization of negative qualities, vulgarity, and gratuitous sexualization of books for kids.
Oh dear, I fear I have gone on and one. Perhaps, another post will be in order some time soon... :)

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