Reading about this classic children’s books exhibit at the British Library has made me want to share some of my favorites. So here’s the first one: Nikolai Nosov’s Neznayka — the story of light-headed Dunno/Neznayka and his group of friends, Gunky, Swifty, Bendum, Twistum and many others, who build a hot air balloon and go off on an adventure. Like most children’s books, it does have clear didactic purposes (in this case, Communist-sanctioned goals since it was written in Soviet Russia), but I can’t remember understanding it that way when I first read it as a child. It was just a very enjoyable read.
Over at English Pen, Carmen Bugan writes a beautiful piece on what it’s like to read the files the secret police kept on your parents:
“To my surprise, all of the details of my own adolescence, complete with love notes I wrote to boys thinking only they would read them, have been faithfully recorded in my mother’s archives. My yearly letter to my father in prison, his postcards to us, and the conversations my father had with the men in his cell, are all recorded, sometimes paraphrased, as are the transcripts of our dreams that we used to share with each other in the mornings. There are notes with further instructions for monitoring us written on the side of the pages as well as glosses about our state of mind or feelings when we made certain remarks that they interpreted from our tone of voice, as well as transcripts of all of our telephone conversations.”