Thursday, November 18, 2010

Two Childhood Favorites: Stuart Little and The Outsiders

"Stuart Little" by E. B. White
Originally published in 1945
Source: Bought this copy for my children

Stuart Little is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick C. Little.  To say that he was a surprise at his birth would be an understatement;  he was not much bigger than a fact, he looked very much like a mouse.  Although Stuart's size presents some problems and even some frights, the Littles love Stuart.  But when Stuart's friend, a bird names Margalo, flies away from the Little home, Stuart sets off on a grand adventure to find her. 

I read this book when I was young and read it again to my own children but I honestly did not remember that much about it, other than the basic premise.  This was White's first novel and the publisher's were concerned that children might not accept a story about a mouse-child or without a clear cut ending.  Clearly, they did.  White has created in Stuart a character that children can relate to - sure they aren't as small as a mouse but they are much smaller than all of the adults they are surrounded by.  I found Stuart Little to be simply charming.
"In the loveliest town of all, where the houses were white and high and the elm trees were green and higher than the houses, where the front yeards were wide and pleasant and the back yards were bushy and worth finding out about, wher ethe streets sloped down to the stream and the stream flowed quietly under the bridge, where the lawns ended in orchards and the orchards ended in fields and the fields ended in pastures and the pastures climbed the hill and disappeared over the top toward the wonderful wide sky, in this loveliest of all towns Stuart stopped to get a drink of sarsapilla."
Garth William's pen drawings in this book are lovely; I liked them so much better than his drawings in Charlotte's Web.  In this book, they really aided in telling the story.  If your children haven't read this one, please encourage them to do so.  It is so much better than the movie adaptation.

"The Outsiders" by S. E. Hinton
Originally published in 1967
Source: I bought this copy for my children

Life is tough for Ponyboy Curtis.  His parents died in a car accident several months earlier and his two older brothers are working hard to make sure the family can stay together.  But keeping Ponyboy, and themselves, out of trouble is no easy feat.  The Curtis boys are "greasers," a label that Ponyboy struggles with.  When the Socs, the rich kids from across town who are the greasers rivals, use the word, there's no doubt that it's intended as an insult.  Yet Ponyboy is proud of the people he calls friends and just fine with the style of their hair and they clothes they wear.  One night Ponyboy, his friend Johnny, the group's "pet," and Dallas (Dally), the meanest one in the group, sneak into the drive-in.  When they meet up with a couple of girls from the Socs it sets in motion a string of events that will forever change all of their lives.

S.E. Hinton started writing this book when she was only fifteen years old, something that is hard to believe except for the fact that it may account for the reason the book so captures the voice of her generation so well.  In The Outsiders Hinton brought to young people a voice that they had never had before.  The book is startlingly realistic and violent but also finds Ponyboy seeing the good in everyone.  Hinton does not make any "if we could just talk, everything would be fine" promises.  But she certainly tried to leave young people with the message that even though there are some barriers that might not be able to be crossed, trying to a least understand the other side might just make the barriers easier to live with.
"It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one.  Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different.  We saw the same sunset."
When you were all reading Judy Blume, I was reading S. E. Hinton.  With all of the talk about Blume I see on blogs, I sometimes have wondered if I made a mistake.  Perhaps I should have read some Blume.  But on re-reading The Outsiders I still think I made a great choice.


  1. The Outsider's is one of my favorite stories of all time, and I have read the book and watched the movie so many times I have lost count. It's an amazing story, and the fact that Hinton wrote it when she was only 15 is mind boggling to me. I am so glad to see this review, as this book is not one that gets a lot of attention. Wonderful!

  2. Stuart Little was one of my favorite books growing up. I loved stories with animal characters, and this was one of the best! I also love Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

    I remember reading The Outsiders in 7th grade, but I don't remember much about the story. Looks like I'll have to revisit it!

  3. I read both of these as a child, but I've mostly forgotten them now; I remember only vaguely what each is about. You've made me want to revisit them, though!

  4. I absolutely, ABSOLUTELY loved The Outsiders. This brings back such wonderful memories -- thanks for the stroll down memory lane!

  5. Actually i have not read Judy Blum and S.E. Hinton. I have not even hard of the latter. So I knoe I will have put this one in my wishlist.

  6. These are both excellent stories and ones that I totally enjoyed as a kid too. I adored the Outsiders and loved it when they made it into a movie!!

  7. I am trying to remember if I've read Stuart Little. I think I did when I was a child, but it's been so long. The Outsiders, on the other hand, I more clearly remember. I read and loved that one--and the movie too. I read both Judy Blume and S.E. Hinton, although at different times in my life. I've read most of Hinton's books and loved each and every one of them.