In which I will talk about one of my childhood novels and my reaction rereading them. (Idea from Taste Life Twice)
Blast from the Past: I was in Grade 5 and we had one of those Independent Study Units things where you pick from a select booklist a novel to read and do write-ups for. I can no longer remember the reason why I was late in choosing the books, but by the time I got there, all that was left was these old, yellowing books called I Want To Go Home by Gordon Korman, with a crumbling cover so faded I could barely make out the cover image. I was distraught. Here I was, stuck with the ugly novel no one wanted. In my mind, there was no conceivable way this sorry state of a novel could possibly be good. (And man, was my Gr. 5 self proven wrong.)
Anyhow, filled with pessimism, I cracked over the yellowing pages and decided to get my ISU done and over with. One chapter into the novel and I could not be parted from its yellowing pages. It was so funny. I was hooked by the time Rudy wrote his letter of typhoid and being chased by bears and various other outrageous lies about his camping experience. To this day I thank the heavens that I was late into the book choosing and wound up with this diamond in the rough. Every time I remember this book I find myself smiling in happiness.
The Re-visiting Experience: Wandering around a secondhand book store, I stumbled upon a copy of this novel. Needless to say, I bought it up. Childhood happiness for about the price of a toonie. I could have died happy. And rereading this novel was just as fun as it was when I was twee. The jokes were still laugh out loud funny and I had to actually pause midway through the book because I’d be losing my breath from too much laughter. And I still enjoy reading about Rudy very much. Thinking back, Rudy may have been one of my many influences in getting all attached to snarky characters causing chaos wherever they went, with a touch of sullenness. ♥
However, some other things that I was completely blindsided to when I was a child:
- Wow, this novel comes off as very white. If the cover doesn’t tip off this impression then the very Anglo-type names of all the cast would probably do the trick. Skin colour is rarely described, but if mentioned at all it’s always “pale” or “white” , and other times they’d go red from angry or being sunburnt, etc etc. Basically, white is clearly default and in case we readers get any different ideas, our cover of All-White Campers will be there to remind us of our mistake. I mean, I suppose this isn’t shocking since this is a Canadian children’s novel and Canada is our Great and Forever White North. (bossymarmalade has a post about this if anyone’s interested.) It’s just, I look back, at all the Canadian Kid’s lit books I was given back in elementary school, and wonder how much I must have absorbed from them, a Canada that had no place for someone who looked like me.
- This is very much a Boy’s Book that has no place for girls. If we are there, we’re the fretting mothers, or the girls keeping Rudy down and foiling his escape routes, the party poopers. When described we’re “petite blue-eyed”, the classic European Standard of Beauty for women/girls, the date, the love interest, the accessory. Basically, another book to the string of Boy’s Adventure books that have no place for girls and girl cooties.
That being said, I honestly did enjoy my reread. It was quirky and laugh-out-loud fun, and I’ll quote the letter bit under the cut, because the comedy was sincerely one of my favourite aspects of this novel.
Dear Mom and Dad, wrote Rudy. This place is terrible. Each day I’m subjected to countless atrocities. The food is spoiled and poisonous, and the drinking water is contaminated so there is an outbreak of typhoid. Our cabin collapsed last night in a typhoon, but don’t worry. Only one guy got killed.
It’s not all bad. I do have one friend, named Mike. He’s the one who pulled me out of the quicksand. I have to haul garbage every day, but there aren’t too many wild animals at the dump and I’ve only been bitten twice.
Mr. Warden, the director, is very nice, and he has a real social conscience. He hires only desperate criminals as counsellors. Our bunk counsellor, whose name is Chip, is a reformed axe-murderer on parole. He has red eyes and yells a lot and keeps an axe under his mattress.
Tonight is really going to be fun. Our cabin hasn’t been fixed yet, so we get to sleep in trees. I sure hope the typhoon doesn’t start up again.
I’ll be safe and sound so long as Algonkian Island doesn’t sink any further.
P.S. If this letter looks messy it’s because I’m writing it while being chased by a bear.(pg. 23)