Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Taking me places

One writer I always enjoyed was Jules Verne.  And, I've always felt 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to be an extraordinary work.(It's never been out of print, so others must agree)  Here we have a nuclear submarine envisioned during the civil war when metal ships were just in their infancy.  I paid homage to Verne in The Devil Draws Two, where a submarine makes its debut. 
 
My appreciation of this story goes way back to my first record player--that's a machine that played recorded music and stories off of vinyl disks.  One of the first records I got was 20000 Leagues. It was just awesome.  I read the actual book when I got a little bit older.  I remember I used it for a book report and the teacher (and I can no longer remember which grade I was in) took exception to it and didn't think it was worthy of my time.
 
No other story has ever ignited my imagination or inspired me more than that one did.  Teacher was wrong, seriously wrong. Sure,  From the Earth to the Moon and Journey to the Center of the Earth are a little far fetched, but they're works of imagination.  Regardless of teacher's thoughts, I went on and read Around the World in 80 Days and just about all of Verne's books. 
 
So, I was in the library yesterday and there was 20000 Leagues on the shelf of the juvenile section. (at our library the juvenile section is in a separate room, but there's also a shelf of juvenile offerings extending out into the main library.)  I had never, until that moment, thought of that book as juvenile. I guess it may be.  I went over to the catalog computer and Verne's other works were listed as regular fiction, but not that one.  Okay, I read it as a juvenile.  I strongly believe kids should read it. So, okay. I can live with that. 
 
But, what I was really bothered by, and this book was prominently displayed, a young girl picked it up and was interested in it as I was looking it up. I commented "That's a really good book," then resumed my wild goose chase which was why I was actually there. (More on that in a few days). Her mother put it back and told her "That's more of a boy's book." 
 
That bothered me.  There's is nothing in that book that will turn her princess into a truck driver. It's a great book.  I was appalled at what I just witnessed. Parents should take an interest in what their kids read, but not stifle them because a boy might like it more. I mean, I'm looking at this from a boy's POV, but I really don't see the problem with 20000 Leagues. Maybe it's me.
 
Kids are censored to one degree or another all the time.  Last summer I participated at an author event at the Denver County Fair. A boy about the age of the girl at the library kept looking at Science Fiction Trails 8, one of the items I had on my table. That issue has a very bold colorful cover.  The kid came back and looked at it five times.  His dad reminded him he'd already spent his money for the day.  Since the young man was over budget, I wanted to give him a copy. I did not, however, because one of the stories is not really appropriate for someone of his age, I felt (I'd give it a PG 13).  So, it's not always easy to guide kid's reading and I admire librarians. But, I was concerned about  sexual content where the child might not be ready for it (even though tv sitcoms are far worse than anything in SFT 8). The girl's mother was concerned it was more for boys. She knows her daughter and may be right. Still, it didn't set well with me.

Maybe I'm missing something.  My teacher was not amused.  This child's mother?
 
 

1 comment:

  1. I recently read a comment that the United States is the only place where you'll find 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea shelved as juvenile fiction. It's also an interesting case because most copies in the U.S. were heavily censored by the British translators who originally brought it into English. They didn't like Verne's anti-British sentiments. I highly recommend the edition published by the US Naval Institute Press, translated and annotated by Walter Miller and Frederick Paul Walter. Even if you're well versed with Verne, this edition will give you new insights.

    As far as kids' reading is concerned, I've never picked books for them based on what's "girls fiction" or "boys fiction." The most I've restricted is suggesting that they wait on certain books till they're a little older -- usually because of sexual content.

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