Subtle Children’s Fiction

I developed an aversion to reading when I was a child.  The reasons were complicated, and I’ve spent most of my life overcoming it.

For years, it was necessary to chew gum while reading because otherwise I’d vent the stress by chewing on the inside of my mouth. To this day, remembering what I’ve read is hit or miss, but just being able to appreciate books is something to be proud of.  It wasn’t easy to get this far.

Sadly, I didn’t read Arnold Lobel’s Frog And Toad stories when they were new.  The first was published when I was about ten, and if anyone had recommended it I probably would have been offended. By that age, I was fed up with being infantilized by unstable adults, and the whole reading thing was enough to make me feel ill.

As an adult, I’ve read other children’s books.  Norton Juster’s  The Phantom Tollbooth was great, and maybe I’ll get around to Frog And Toad someday.  The series was first brought to my attention around 1980, when the gay literary magazine Christopher Street published an essay on gay undertones in the stories.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think because I knew people who could find gay undertones in anything.  Some of those people were obsessive homophobes, and others were recently-out gay people who never wanted to step outside of the Castro.  It didn’t seem likely that a writer for Christopher Street was in either one of those groups, which may be why the essay stuck with me.  I’m sure I chewed gum while reading it.

That said, not everything in J. Bryan Lowder’s recent Slate article is breakthrough information.  However, I learned something from it, and understand that Frog And Toad probably shouldn’t be missed.

Here’s the link to Mr. Lowder’s article.  Please forgive the overlapping.  The link works:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2016/06/02/how_frog_and_toad_author_arnold_lobel_explored_gay_intimacy_in_his_work.html

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