Reading notes, week 11

by , under books, reading notes

Alfred’s gedragboekje by Tine van Berken. “Alfred’s Little Behavior Book”. Pff. Boy runs away because he’s in trouble at school, gets into more trouble (cold, hungry, sells his coat for food, comes home with tail between his legs) and has then suddenly become a model student. 1913. Hasn’t aged well.

Joop ter Heul’s problemen, Joop van Dil-ter Heul, Joop en haar jongen and De dochter van Joop ter Heul, all by Cissy van Marxveldt. Haven’t aged well either; I couldn’t not read them, and couldn’t read them except as social history documents in which learned women promptly turn into housewives the moment they get married or even engaged (poor Bertie and Bea!). The last one, written decades later, starts marginally better but ends in a muddle without even a “protagonist gets engaged/married” resolution, only “completely unknown man turns out to be interested when he sees the protagonist dance in a ballet show and sends flowers, probably meaning more”.

Het fluitketeltje en andere versjes and De spin Sebastiaan by Annie M.G. Schmidt. Children’s verse (and in De spin Sebastiaan also some short stories). Half of it I still know by heart; some of it (even some of what I know by heart) is somewhat cringey. The stories, especially, tend to be cheesy and to end too suddenly, as if the writer was bored or hurried, or (most likely) she needed to cut the story short to fit in a newspaper column.

Alleen op de wereld (translation of Sans Famille) by Hector Malot. First read that (in an only slightly more modern translation) when I was nine or so, and cried; this time I cried again. I missed several scenes I remembered, perhaps a whole subplot, and checked another translation and found out that I’d actually been reading an abridged version! (But at least my memory wasn’t faulty. I’ll get the other translation as well, or perhaps even try to find an original though I don’t trust my French.)

Uit den kostschooltijd van Jan van Beek by J.B. Schuil. A boy makes himself impossible at his high school and is sent to a strict boarding school, where it’s several abusive teachers who make themselves (and everything) impossible. Just at the moment that Jan and two friends are about to be expelled because they’ve managed to escape from detention, a beloved teacher takes over as the new headmaster and everything becomes much better. I’d love to read a whole book about the school under the new management! But all there is is the final two chapters in another book by this author (who also wrote some much better known books, De Katjangs and De A.F.C.-ers, which I didn’t read as a kid because they’re all about boys playing football) in which the two protagonists from the football books go to this school. (Also a very racist book, De Artapappa’s, which I’ve never read either.)

Vier maal J en Janus by Hans Andreus. Very well written, but there’s some “period-appropriate” (1963) sexism (“this girl is just as good as a boy”) and mild fat-shaming.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. Childhood favourite; the first part is wonderful as before, but now I see the rampant racism in the latter part. Also, Africa as a country (though it does have different kingdoms). Grrr.

(now I want to read something without any cringe, so probably written in the 21st century by someone I trust)

Index of reading notes is here.

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