No doubt, those of us addicted to film versions of Pride and Prejudice remember the scene in one or another of the productions where Mr. Bennett, in the aftermath of dealing with all of his daughters wayward and otherwise, is sitting in his study enjoying a glass of sherry and chuckling over the humor rising off the pages of his book. This is the Mr. Bennet who declares “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” It is likely he is reading a satire about the folly of his fellow man. But should Darcy and Elizabeth’s little daughter toddle in, he will quickly realize that while Swift might do for a time, Rabelais won’t do at all. And granddaughters have voracious appetites for story time. What Grandpa Bennet wants is a rollicking good read that will entertain them both for many an evening. I would recommend one of the 26 volumes of the Freddy the Pig series by Walter R. Brooks. The ridiculous animal antics would delight the granddaughter, and the pithy observations on the ways of man would delight grandpa.
I will begin with a caveat. While Walter R. Brooks’ short stories for adults were worthy enough to launch the television series Mr. Ed, the humor in these texts is often dark, biting, passing, and proud. Read “The Talking Horse” and you will find that it is so. What these works for adults confirm though is not only does Ageless Children’s Literature transfigure the reader, it can also transfigure the writer. Simply by putting a child before him as his audience, Brooks becomes an author capable of adding to rather than subtracting from the civil order and an author capable of giving us bright, whimsical, memorable, and humble humor which enriches readers of all ages.
© 2022 Joann Luke