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Family Grandstand

1657050

by Carol Ryrie Brink

published 1952

I’m not sure what has happened to our society, but I can’t seem to find books like this any more.  This is a happy book about a happy family.  There are two parents and several children.  The parents have rules and the children obey them.  Everyone respects and loves everyone else.  The adventures are funny and not stressful, and emphasize kindness, selflessness, inclusiveness, the importance of a good attitude, and respect for those in authority (like parents, the elderly, and teachers), all without sounding preachy.  There’s no divorce, no discussion of sexual orientation, no realization that parents are actually evil and stupid and selfish.  Instead, it’s everything that a children’s book should be:  innocent and fun.

I understand when people say that there need to be children’s book where children are in the same situations as the potential readers, e.g. story-children whose parents are divorced.  That’s well and good, but at the same time, we have to remember that books are, in many cases (possibly even most cases in children’s literature), a presentation of an ideal.  I don’t think that normalizing divorce (which is just one of many examples; extra-marital sex amongst under-15-year-0lds would be another) by presenting it in every single story for every single child in that story is a good trend.  What you’re saying is not just “Hey, it’s okay if you’re in this situation,” but also, “Hey, this is the way everyone is, and it’s all you can really hope for for your future, too.”  I’m really over modern children and YA literature insisting that it’s impossible for two adults to get married (without having sex first to “make sure it’s going to work”…  because yes, I think we should tell young adults that your marriage is going to work or not work based on whether or not you like to bang…  that could be what’s leading to the high divorce rates later..???), and then stay married…  you know, forever.  Until one of them dies.  Like they promised to do when they got married.

Books like Family Grandstand aren’t trying to insist that every family in 1952 was perfect.  But in 1952 the ideal was still perfect:  a happy family with happy parents in a happy home full of love and respect.  I think that modern literature could do with a bit of an idealist lesson from those “hopelessly old-fashioned” 1950’s.

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6 thoughts on “Family Grandstand

  1. I’ve never read any of Carol Ryrie Brink’s works aside from Caddie Woodlawn, but I’m sure this book would be right up my alley! I agree with you on how modern children’s books have taken a turn to something less “ideal” and more aggressive/broken/real, and that may be because children and young adults are finding different emotions and situations to relate to nowadays.

    I’ve probably fallen into the same mindset, since when I try to imagine a modern version of Family Grandstand, I immediately think that’s it’s too happy, and therefore it must be fake… but I don’t know how to stop that thought process, haha. But if books like these start being written again, the book world will definitely change drastically. I’m looking forward to the moment that that happens!

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    • I think what bothers me about much of modern YA/children’s lit isn’t that it’s sad or that it talks about serious issues, but that it does so with such a hopeless attitude, an undertone that says that this is the Way It Is and there isn’t any way for it to be different or to change. A lot of older books wrestle with serious issues (see, for instance, “An Old-Fashioned Girl”) but the idea in those stories is that problems are addressed as problems – things that can be overcome – rather than the modern attitude of accepting problems as normalcy.

      Nowadays, children’s books seem to teach the lesson of acceptance no matter what – of life situations, attitudes, morals, you name it – rather than teaching them that they can be better than they are, that they can overcome the difficulties of their childhood, and that they can become stronger adults than their parents before them.

      * climbs off soapbox* ;-)

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      • *applauds furiously* :D Acceptance is definitely the main theme in today’s society, whereas it probably was put on the backburner a few decades ago. Some variety and mixing of old with the new would be nice!

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  2. Couldn’t agree more! Every time I look at the blurb for a children’s book these days, I shudder. I reckon that’s why so many kids are reading fantasy – the fiction is so depressing. Especially since – shock news – lots of families do still stay together and love each other…

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    • I know, right? It’s like I was telling Sophie – it’s not that we have stories about families that don’t get on/are divorced/have some other trouble, but this attitude that that’s what EVERY family is like. It’s like the fact that all contemporary fiction for adult women is about a woman who’s just coming out of a terrible divorce in which she did everything right and worshiped the ground her man walked on but he’s a MAN so OF COURSE he cheated on her because no MAN can actually be faithful to his wife and if you think yours is well you’re delusional and it’s only a matter of time before you find out the truth (and don’t worry because now she’ll find out that she’s strong and independent and really just needed to be free from the responsibilities to find out who she REALLY IS). And everyone just accepts it because “lots of people are divorced” so we need to write things that emphasize with their situation. Well that’s fine, but I’m happy married so maybe it would be nice if someone wrote some books that emphasized with MY situation?! Instead, we just get this hopeless attitude that says that every marriage will either end in divorce or in the couple pretending to get on for the sake of appearances, that every family is full of discord and discontent, and that happy endings are only ever temporary.

      It’s really ironic that such a lighthearted and happy little book has led me into multiple rants now, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Paper Puffs (38) | Paper Breathers

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