Many wonderful bloggers and writers have sent me their thoughts on Eager, but I decided to begin my Backwards Blog Tour with the fabulousÂ Mitali Perkins, (prolific author, friendly blogger, and organizer extraordinaire) because while she loves Eager, she also addresses an aspect of his work that I find, as an adult reader, problematic.
I grew up loving Edward Eager. As a kid, I skipped over the strange ethnic stereotyping I now notice in some of his books. Maybe itâ€™s because when it came to issues of race, Eager won my trust with â€œThe Well-Wishers,â€ a story published in 1960 about a black family moving into an all-white town. The book could read like another â€œwhite people should welcome black peopleâ€ didactic tale were it not for the twist Eager added of tough guy Dicky LeBaronâ€™s mentoring of the new kid Hannibal. At age 11, I moved into an all-white town myself. When Dicky advises Hannibal, â€œBe yourself, dad, and like it,â€ I felt like he was talking to me, encouraging me, giving me permission to be brown. Read in 2009, â€œThe Well-Wishersâ€ can still inspire kids that to take a stand against injustice, thanks to Eagerâ€™s strong characters, deprecating humor, and good intentions, otherwise known as well-wishing.
I’m so glad that Mitali wrote this, because I had absolutely forgotten about Hannibal!Â The Well Wishers and its partner-book Magic or Not? are less “magical” than Eager’s other books, and as such, I (a goofy magic-loving child) read them less often.Â But in general, I think we need to talk more about this issue of race and historical context!
It’s somethingÂ I have trouble hammering out, for myself.Â I heard the other day that several classics have recently been “updated” (is this true? does anyone know anything more about it? Mary Poppins? Really?!)Â I had a violent reaction to the idea. But… I also find myself uncomfortable with leaving the books as they are…Â Remember Achmed the A-rab in Half Magic?
And we can’t just censor the book, right?
What do you think?