I remember reading A Little Princess and loving the old-fashioned language and the quaint illustrations. I could just imagine I was Sara living oh so long ago. But recently I checked out a few possibilities for our bedtime book (one chapter or thereabouts each night) and the quaint language gave me some hard decisions to make.
My heart was set on Peter Pan, the 100th anniversary edition. I don't think I've actually read it myself, and was keen to share the experience with my two girls. The first night, however, we hit a snag. 'Rather delightful' is a quaint yet accessible phrase, and I loved how it set the tone in the first paragraph. The second, however, started 'Of course they lived at 14, and until Wendy came her mother was the chief one.' I really didn't get it myself, and there was a chorus of questions from the girls' beds. Soon we were reading about bookkeeping, Brussels sprout, cauliflowers and babies. It was all too much, and we abandoned the effort after two nights.
This dilemma made me sad. Are my kids never going to read Barrie's original work? Will they forever identify with the Disney version? How much effort am I willing to put in to our evening read? I really can't imagine how we will get through it at this age, and that makes me sad. I hold out hope for the future, when we can read it together or they pick up the books by themselves. Unlocking an old-fashioned text is like learning a foreign language. It helps with our everyday language and gives us a sense of accomplishment.
The girls and I are now reading The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, and loving it. The tiny pictsies speak what seems to me Scottish accents with quaint words, 'Ach, yer fightin' yersels, ye eejits! Ah'm fed up wi' the paira yees!' Their swear word of choice is 'crivens' and they say, 'Wailly wailly' when they are distressed. We are having so much fun. Or at least I am. I bung on an accent which I think is pretty good, and have even used 'wailly wailly' on FaceBook, much to my brother's amusement. I do tend to get carried away!
In the book only the pictsies use such language, and the rest of the text is effortlessly understood. I find this mix an entertaining, pleasant challenge. Tiffany, the protagonist also has to seek translations from pictsie to English, and that helps us to identify with her.
So how timely that I read this article on the re-editing of Enid Blyton's works. The debate rages at household and global level. Do you think we should edit classics so that children can understand them more easily?