Our Reactions to Classic Children’s Books, Then and Now

Childrens Books

The House on East 88th Street, by Bernard Waber
Then: Wow! A pet crocodile who lives in the bathtub! Fun! I wish I had one!
Now: That’s what I call a tragedy waiting to happen. Isn’t this already a show on TLC? This book should have been titled, Oh, the Health Codes You’ll Violate!

Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
Then: Pippi is so independent and cool and she has a monkey and a horse! I wish we were friends!
Now: Someone should call child services immediately! Is that house zoned for a large animal?! Does the monkey have its shots? Is Pippi investing her fortune properly so that it will sustain her through retirement?

Eloise, by Kay Thompson
Then: I wish I got to run around a big fun hotel unsupervised like Eloise! No one tells her what to do!
Now: Where is that girl’s guardian?! She could be kidnapped at any time! If things don’t change I give it 5 years, tops, before she’s stumbling drunk out of a limo outside AV Nightclub and shoplifting at Bergdorfs.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, by Judi Barrett
Then: If a giant pancake fell from the sky right now, that would be the coolest thing ever! I would eat it all up!
Now: Is this some kind of depressing climate-change allegory or what? If you need me I’ll be in bed.

Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss
Then: It is important to try new things, even when they’re scary!
Now: Those eggs look way underdone. And there’s really no reason they should be green. I wouldn’t eat them either, Sam-I-Am. Salmonella can be a life-threatening illness.

Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag
Then: Out of all the millions of cats, the one kitten they ended up with was the perfect one, aww.
Now: This is a clear case for animal control and against hoarding.

The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, by Betty MacDonald
Then: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives in an upside-down house and smells like cookies! I wish she lived next door! One time a little girl didn’t want to ever take a bath and she got so dirty Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle planted radishes on her! Ha ha ha!
Now: Is this woman even a certified child therapist? Her methods seem at worst dangerous and at best entirely unorthodox.

The Berenstain Bears series, by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Then: I love this bear family! But there’s no way they all fit in that tiny tree trunk house together.
Now: Yeah, I’m still trying to figure that out.

Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish
Then: What a wacky lady! Life’s a hoot when Amelia Bedelia’s your maid. Also: it must be really hard to get fired in real life!
Now: I know it’s hard to find good help these days, but can we at least find someone who doesn’t mix up their meds? Someone, like Mr. and/or Mrs. Rodgers, is going to get hurt.

Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Then: Holden is so cool and wise and mature. I wish we could hang out and complain about goddamn phonies together.
Now: Oh boo hoo, Holden Caufield. Grow up.

Stuart Little, by E.B. White
Then: How did Stuart manage to win that sailboat race in Central Park?
Now: How did Stuart manage to be born unto human parents? Can we think about this for a second?!

Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
Then: This is the best book in the world.
Now: This is the best book in the world.

What children’s book do you look at askance as an adult?


  • http://www.goodreads.com/joeleoj Joel Cunningham

    Actually, now I just feel sad for Holden. So young, so confused. So pompous yet clearly so insecure.

  • Aubrey Pedersen Sorenson

    Or, you know, you could choose not to become a jaded unhappy person and enjoy the stories still. Just a thought.

    • Serenity Verde

      Yes thank you! This was my exact thought reading this.