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Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane: Books from My Childhood

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A few weeks back, I participated in a meme about kid’s books. I remembered two books from my childhood that I liked, so I checked them out of the library to see if I would like them now. The experiment was both interesting and fun, but it yielded mixed results. I can’t say with conviction that I enjoyed either of these as an adult.

Starting my trip down memory lane with The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese, I am still charmed by the illustrations, which have the muted texture and shades of crayon, with the distinctive boldness of brushed ink lines. The art is simple, with only enough detail to establish the setting. Ping is very expressive, despite the lack of details. I love the art.

Now, the story is a different matter. I fondly recalled Ping not wanting to be the last duck on the boat, because the last duck on the boat gets a smack on the back from the Master of the boat. One day, while Ping is fishing, he doesn’t hear the call to board the boat, and it becomes very clear to him that he will be the last duck to board. Instead of manning (or would that be ducking) up, he decides to hide instead. So begins his big adventure, which almost results in Ping getting served for dinner by the family that catches him. Wait?! I don’t remember that!? Ping was almost dinner?! Oh, my gosh! He is the sad captive of this family for almost a day, trapped in a basket as they plan their evening meal. With Ping as the main course!

I didn’t like this book now that I’m an adult, and I don’t understand why I had such a strong reaction to it. Ping obviously escapes to be reunited with his large duck family, but for several pages, I was very anxious for him, and I didn’t like feeling like that. I was upset! I didn’t remember any of that, so I wonder if I actually understood that particular plot point when I was younger. I don’t think I did, because I have a difficult time, and have for as long as I can remember, reading anything about animals getting hurt. So, this book didn’t live up to my memories of it.

Tikki Tikki Tembo, retold by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent, retells the Chinese fable of why children have such short names.This one fared better with the passage of time, but I’m now indifferent to the art. While I love the whimsical structure of the illustrations, I dislike the colors used. The shades remind me of a couch from the 70s; weird combinations of yellow and green, with dollops of blue thrown in for good measure. There are no hints of red at all. It’s like Blair Lent’s paint set had only blue, yellow, and black, and I found it odd looking.

I still enjoy this story, though. Chang and Tikki Tikki Tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo are brothers in a small mountain village. They are typical boys, and they play next to the well, even though their mother warns them that they will fall in. And they do. First Chang, but with his short, unimportant name, which matches his second born status in the family, it’s not a big deal to run screaming down the mountain path to tell mom about what happened. When Tikki Tikki Tembo falls into the well, oh my! Poor Chang can’t get that long, unwieldy name out of his mouth, which leaves his unwisely named brother in the cold well much longer than he should have been stuck down there. I don’t remember this being funny when I was a kid, but I found it humorous now, especially the reaction of the boys’ mother.

This was a fun experiment, and I would like to apply it to some of the novels I read when I was younger. I wonder, would I still like The White Mountains or The Book of Three or even The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? I am a little scared that they won’t live up to my fond memories, but I think it would be a worthy exercise to find out!

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