Monday, January 28, 2008

I Just Liked Her Because She Was Played By Hayley Mills

Sunday morning I caught the last few minutes of Pollyanna: Spirit of Optimism Born Out of War on National Public Radio. I've never read the book, and have fond memories of the Disney movie only because I was a big Hayley Mills fan and she played the the title character. In fact, Mills is interviewed as part of the NPR program. Doesn't her voice sound marvelous? And have I given away my age by droning on about her?

Interesting points in the NPR program:

NPR claims the Golden Age of Children's Literature came to an end at the beginning of the twentieth century. Clearly, I need to read a book on kidlit history.

Pollyanna was hugely popular, though you'd never know that now. As someone who's interested in history, I'm fascinated when I hear about things--and books, in particular--that were highly regarded in their time but then pass from popular interest. Or, as in the case of Pollyanna, even become unpopular. It makes me wonder about what will happen to the things we love now.

Jerry Griswold, a professor of children's literature at San Diego State University, who was also interviewed as part of the NPR program, wrote about Pollyanna in The New York Times back in 1987.


Jeannine Atkins said...

Gail, no need to buy that hefty Norton Anthology, here’s your one minute course re Golden Age lit. We have in the 1840’s Hans Christian Andersen, then in the US you get realism like Little Women (1868) and in England, fantasy with Alice in Wonderland (1865). Mark Twain published Tom Sawyer, 1876. Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island 1883 and A Child’s Garden of Verses two years later. The twentieth century begins with the Wonderful Wizard of Oz which some call the first American fantasy, and in 1901 The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, who was a childhood inspiration of C.S. Lewis.
I’m not usually one to quibble with NPR, but I do teach children’s lit; most stretch the Golden Age of Literature to include J. R. R. Tolkien who published The Hobbit in 1937; so you get Peter Pan in Kensington Garden by James Barrie 1906, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows 1908, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, 1910. and A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, 1926.
Any other questions?
Jeannine Atkins
P.S. I also loved Hayley Mills.

Gail Gauthier said...

Yes, I do have a question. Was Little Women published as children's literature? I thought it was originally published as a newspaper serial, and that always made me wonder if it was considered as being for a general audience at the time it was written. It would then have become classified as children's literature at some later point. (Much the way I sometimes hear of To Kill a Mockingbird being YA when it was originally published as an adult work.)

The business about Oz possibly being the first American fantasy is very interesting.

Jeannine Atkins said...

Oh, my favorite questions are about Alcott, so thanks! LMA was publishing her gothic stories, definitely not for kids, and had published a book based on her short career as a nurse in a Civil War hospital when an editor (precursor to Little Brown) literally knoced at her door and asked for a book for girls. Gracious she was not, and said she knew nothing about girls, then was reminded she had three sisters. Horatio Alger books for boys were popular, and this publisher thought there would be a market for girl books.Money, of which she had little, was offered, and a smart businesswomen, for which heirs are grateful, she was one of the first to ask for a royalty instead of flat fee. It was never a newspaper serial, but was published in two pieces, the second, Good Wives, after the first immediately struck a chord. It's never been out of print.

Gail Gauthier said...

Okay. That sounds like a children's book to me.