Friday, February 25, 2011

Rediscovering "The Bobbsey Twins" Through My Daughter's Eyes

You know the books from childhood that you refind, reread, and reaffirm your belief that they are pretty amazing? It's a very cool experience ... but even better when you're able to bring a child along on the journey. Especially when it's your own child (although getting fifty seventh graders to love The Outsiders a couple of months ago was also pretty cool).

So a couple of nights ago, I asked Belle what she wanted for a bedtime story. She's at that awkward stage where the decoding part of reading takes away some of the joy in the storytelling. The books she reads on her own are kind of, uh, lacking in plot since they are limited in terms of word availability, and she's very into the "I'm reading YOU my bedtime story", so me getting to choose ... well, it was kind of a treat.

I took the task very seriously and started going through a pile of old books. Suddenly, I struck literary gold when I found The Bobbsey Twins 11-The Scarecrow Mystery.

Okay, let me explain. When I was right around Belle's age, I had a ruptured appendix and was in the hospital for a week (I don't get sick often, but when I do, it tends to be dramatic ... sigh). My grandmother had passed away just a few months before, so the hospital was kind of a hard place for my family to be, my grandfather in particular. Still, he wanted to make my days happier, so he bought a whole bunch of books for me, books that introduced me to the dual sets of twins, brunette Bert and Nan and blonde-haired Freddie and Flossie. Oh, and also this other lady:

Now, I know that The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew are not fine literature. They are formulaic, misogynistic, and kind of dated. However, those books made my days in the hospital much cheerier, and I eventually read the entire body of both series (and yes, I know they were, along with the Hardy Boys books, penned by ghostwriters working under the Stratemeyer Syndicate as Laura Lee Hope, Carolyn Keene, and Franklin W. Dixon).

Anyway, my copy of The Scarecrow Mystery has doodlings that were done by a seven-year-old me while in the hospital on the inside front cover. And this particular Bobbsey mystery was my favorite, with the twins' random sighting of a scarecrow that seemed to move from one farm field to another somehow connecting with a stolen painting that was allegedly committed by the great French art thief La Fantom (obviously "The Phantom").

I read Belle the first chapter that night, the second chapter the next night, and two chapters (at her request) last night. I told her that, if I had a snow day today, we could finish the book.

Totally had a snow day. We finished the book, and the neatest part was that Belle kept stopping me to ask questions, to put forward her theories, and to make connections. It totally blew my mind and reminded me of how magical it is to be a child caught up in a story that was born in the brain of someone else.

Books are the most magical thing in the world. And yes, I'll be going to Barnes and Noble after it stops snowing to augment our Bobbsey Twin library since Belle is so enthused by these same characters that so enthused me fifteen years ago.