A few days ago I downloaded a free copy of Oh, Money! Money! by Eleanor Porter to my kindle. She’s the author of Pollyanna. It started me thinking about the appeal of these old classics–often subtly dismissed as “children’s” classics. In fact, Oh, Money! Money! is a middle-aged romance.
One of the most obvious aspects of these classics is their morality. It’s front and centre. I have to admit I find something comforting in the certainty they display–and I imagine it’s the same for many readers. In real life, morality isn’t as clear cut and evil does sometimes appear to triumph over good. But in these books, virtue is always rewarded!
The age of the books gives them a vintage appeal. They are a window into a vanished world, and an idealised one at that! which started me thinking.
Have these children’s classics influenced my take on steampunk?
And you know, they have! They are the groundwork for a sub-subgenre that I’m going to call “historical cosy” — with interesting characters, daily living and a guaranteed happy ending. My steampunk adds tech twists and social critique, but I hope it keeps the “warm hug” factor.
A word of warning, though. Not all these children’s classics are easy to read and enjoy in the twenty first century. Some have appalling racial attitudes, others (most) are feminist nightmares. It’s a lucky dip, but there are some treasures.