Yesterday's column spoke of problematic bits in children's books that are edited out of later editions. These included casual racism, not-so-casual racism, characters smoking (the horror!) and the like. I was against said editing out.
However, the value-learnt-in-childhood-reading that has caused me the most harm growing up? Was that brushing one's hair was a good idea. One's curly hair.
My hair is not as curly now as it was in the days of my youth. Then I had Proper curls, now it's an unenthusiastic wave. Most of the time, though, my hair was a disaster because I and everyone else in my life believed that the best way to keep it in order was to brush it.
Children's writers (especially girls' writers) seemed to pay a great deal of attention to little girls and their haircare. Gwendoline Lacey from Blyton's Malory Towers was vain because she brushed her hair a hundred times a night. Kathleen (I think?) from Blyton's Whyteleafe series had no friends because she was unattractive and didn't brush her hair a hundred times a night. The Chalet School and Barbara involved (I have ranted about this elsewhere) Matron ordering Barbara to "slip on your dressing-gown, sit down at the mirror and give it a good hard brushing. A curly crop like yours needs that twice a day if you're to escape tangles and pullings. ... start at the crown of your head and draw the bristles down with a firm, steady stroke. Go all round your head and if you do it rightly, your scalp should be tingling by the time you've finished." (They were big on tingling scalps at the Chalet school. One imagines the students wandering around like so many little clouds of static).
And so (via Fusenews) Underage Reading asks the question that all of us with curls have been asking for years. Did these authors know no people with curls who could point out to them the error of their ways? Did none of them have curls themselves? Did they and all the curlyheaded people in their circles just go around sporting badly maintained shrubberies? It is all very mysterious.
Be warned therefore, writers for children. Your