The other day we walked down to The Book Oasis (sidenote: how cool is it that we can walk to a local used bookstore?). We were bringing in some old books to trade for some new ones. On the shelf, we noticed one of the Illustrated Classics. It was Ivanhoe. It had pictures. We figured, “Why not?”
Grey loved it. It’s hard to figure out how much he’s actually GETTING from the books, but he begged to read it. He ate it up. Then, when we’d finished reading it together, we got the old Ivanhoe movie and watched it together. (This has been mostly a Daddy and Grey thing.) And again, he loved it. He talked about Ivanhoe and King Richard and Robin Hood.
So we got another one: Treasure Island. There was the treasure map, the Black Spot, Ben Gun, a skeleton used to line up the compass, buried gold, and of course Long John Silver with that parrot on his squinty-peg-legged-salty-taking self. In Treasure Island, boys are treated like men, in the way men wish they were treated.
Between them Ivanhoe and Treasure Island ARE the archtypes of Knights and Castles, and Pirates. They are the stories from whence all the inaccurate hoopla flows. What a delight! What a touchstone of boyhood to encounter these books and begin daydreaming in the way that boys have daydreamed for 150 years now of days that never were — but the world would’ve been a more interesting place if they had been.
Last night, Adam and Grey watched the old Disney version of Treasure Island. Do you see a trend? Illustrated Classics = Have an Old Disney Version appropriate for young people.
I don’t know about Grey, but Adam and I are hooked. Next up: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Or maybe the Three Musketeers (since we already HAVE that old movie).
I had this brief moment as I went on my Illustrated Classic buying orgy where I was like, “But these are abridged! What if I’m teaching him to read the easy version and he’ll never stretch himself to read the real version?”
Then I remembered that my son is 4. Somehow, he’ll survive the abridged version. In fact, no way he has the patience for the unabridged version. So let’s give him good stuff to daydream about. Let’s teach him to love literature. Let’s show him that the old that is strong does not wither, and that a story can be good and still not have action figures available for purchase at Toys R Us. And best of all, let’s get to reading some good stuff at night, so I never have to read another L’il Critter story to THAT child, at least!