“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“You’ll never know if you don’t try.”
These two dueling opinions have existed since the beginning of time (ok, maybe for just a very long time!) and I thought about them again and again as I wrote this week’s blog post.
You see, there has been some controversy about new sequels to old classic books recently. Are they as good as the original? Is it a good thing to find out what happens to the characters, or would it be better to leave them alone? I went into this assignment with an open mind to try to get to the bottom of it. . .
Take for example the beloved classic Winnie-the-Pooh series by A.A. Milne written in 1926. I hadn’t read it in years but once I picked it up a few days ago, I couldn’t put it down. It had me chuckling to myself. I was also slightly shocked at how un-politically correct it was! Example: Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit’s hole while coming for a visit. Rabbit tells Pooh it’s because he eats too much (and is fat!) so it’s his own fault. Pooh maintains Rabbit should have a proper front door, and not a hole in the ground. Christopher Robin comes up with a solution: they will have to wait for Pooh to get thin again! So the friends all wait one week for Pooh to lose weight and be able to slip out of Rabbit’s hole. Hilarious. It’s story upon story like this that makes this book a classic. A.A. Milne’s writing in the original Pooh is simple and to the point. Every sentence drives the story or is funny.
Last month, David Benedictus’ authorized sequel Return to the Hundred Acre Wood was published. Now Pooh and Piglet live together, and Piglet is no longer jealous of Pooh. There are more characters, and a few more female characters, which is great. Will it live up to the great stories and drama of the original? Or will it be a gentler, well mannered version? Read it and decide.
Ok, let’s move on to the old classic A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett published in 1904 (yep you heard me right – 1904!). In this book, Sara Crewe is an intelligent, polite young girl born to a wealthy soldier in India, then sent to boarding school in Victorian-era England. At boarding school, she encounters a haughty, jealous, headmistress, Miss Minchin. When Sara’s father dies, Sara is left impoverished. Miss Minchin forces her to become a servant, starve, and sleep in the attic. A man moves in next door, and Sara talks to him. He turns out to be her father’s friend and business partner, and he has been searching for her. He becomes her guardian and they live happily ever after.
The sequel to A Little Princess is Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay to be released in January 2010. I’m actually psyched about this sequel for a few reasons. Hilary McKay is a very clever British children’s author, and I like her writing tone. Also – Wishing for Tomorrow revisits Miss Minchin’s boarding school AFTER Sara Crew has left. It follows her friends (and foes) left at the school like her best friend Ermengarde, who laments that “nothing is the same as it was before.” There are supposed to be new friendships, rivalries, lessons. . . and of course fairy tale endings. We will have to wait and see!
Other classic/sequel combos include Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzgerald and its sequel Harriet Spies Again by Helen Ericson published in 2002. I personally LOVED the classic and felt like it was shocking. Has anyone read the sequel? What did you think? Let me know in the Comments.
Next there’s the classic Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, and its sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean published in 2006. The classic was originally a play in 1904 (what is it with 1904?!) then became a novel in 1911. And of course who doesn’t remember the famous Disney movie? Peter Pan appeared in different works not authorized by the holders of the character’s copyright, then in 2006 the author’s copyright holder had a competition for novelists to submit story outlines for a sequel. Geraldine McCaughrean won the contest, and her book became the official “authorized sequel novel.” The sequel looks pretty cool, with Peter almost growing up thanks to the evil Captain Hook. He steals Peter’s shadow so he can’t fly, and combs the imagination out of his hair, and tries to trick him into growing up. (I might actually check this sequel out!)
And let’s not leave out the amazing (unauthorized) prequel, Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. This adventure series describes how Peter first learns to fly (and almost gets eaten by cannibals and captured by pirates in the process).
Also noteworthy are the classic The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and its sequel The Willows in Winter by William Horwood (1996). STACKS Staffer Sonja is a huge Wind in the Willows fan and she loved both of these books.
So what is my verdict on the classics vs. sequels debate? My opinion is that the original classics set the tone.
However, what if you are so in love with your favorite classic and you just don’t want it to end? What if you NEED to know what happens 100 years down the line? Then you might enjoy the sequels. Either way, it can’t hurt to check them out. You might just find something great. But you’ll never know unless you try!
My advice: check out the classics first, then if you really LOVE it, check out the sequel and see how it measures up.
Let me know YOUR take on classics vs. sequels in the Comments. And if you’ve read any good sequels!
— Ratha, STACKS Writer