Friday, September 23, 2011
On Cherry Street Part 1
On one hand, it's a charming depiction of how innocent life used to be in the late 1950's and early 60's – or at least how we wished it would be.
Stay-at-home moms sent their kids off to school. Well-dressed teachers gently encouraged their pupils, who were always polite and respectful. Fathers sat in a big chair after dinner and read the newspaper or a favorite book, but were not too busy to stop and read a story to their kids. Friendly policemen were always nearby and ready to help. Congenial shopkeepers knew their customers and their children by name.
But on the other hand, the world as seen in the book is a bit strange sometimes.
The most obvious departure from reality is the lack of any diversity. This problem would be solved with a revised edition that came out in 1966. That edition's cover also jettisoned the organ grinder and monkey and instead depicted children of various races playing together.
The book does do a good job of showing that everything in life isn't perfect. In one story, Tom (one of the book's protagonists along with his sisters Betty and Susan) wants a new sled because his friend Jack has one. But his father states, "We cannot get a new sled just now," and helps his son paint the old one instead.
Of course, Tom's sled wins the race down Cherry Street Hill against the other boys.
To spice things up a bit, a story or fable featuring anthropomorphic animals is tossed into the mix here and there, using the clever plot device that the children in the book are reading the same story. The tales have the added zing of various characters plotting to eat other ones, such as the "Story of the Little Lamb" (in which the title character is invited to dinner by a pair of wily foxes) and "The Pancake Man" (in which a pancake takes it on the lam to try and avoid – unsuccessfully – being eaten).
Strangely enough, the villains in these tales aren't always the obvious choices. In fact, in one story, a fox is just minding his own business, trying to enjoy a picnic lunch while he fishes, when his basket is swiped by a pair of squirrels. They are then robbed of it by a rabbit, who loses it to a bear, who stumbles and accidentally drops it in the brook, where it is commandeered by a pair of frogs. The fox finally gets his lunch back when he hooks his basket with his pole and the frogs abandon ship.