THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What was your favorite book as a child?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to read. I’m sure there was such a time, of course and I wasn’t always proficient at it. Part of what helped me learn to read were the books on records and tapes designed for younger readers. I had a large collection of these from Disney, though I seem to recall the tapes having “more story” than was on the printed page as well as songs from the original Disney material and the character voices. One of my favorites was Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. I apparently listened to this A LOT when I was very young (three and four years old).
Another line was the Power Records line. It was a huge line of original book and record sets that featured a full-cast audio drama of the story that you could read along with the accompanying comic book. (The company also had some stories that didn’t come with comic book adaptations as well and these stories were endlessly repackaged). The stories came from popular pop culture items both of the day and timeless ones like Kojak, Planet of the Apes, various Universal monsters and certain Marvel and DC superheroes. One of the first ones I had featured Batman taking on the Joker in a story called “Stacked Cards.” Of course, I also had the Spider-Man entries and the Star Trek ones, which was one of my entry points to that particular franchise. Thanks to the power of the Internet, I’ve found copies of these old records available on-line and I’ve listened to them again. Some are good, some not so good. A couple of things struck me about these stories as a n adult. One is how the sophisticated vocabulary used in some of the stories. These recordings didn’t simplify things or talk down to kids. Another is how dark and bleak they can be — especially the first wave of Marvel stories. Every one of the four stories ends on a bleak, down note. The Spider-Man one has Spidey walking off in frustration that J.J. can’t or won’t believe that Spider-Man just helped his son while the Fantastic Four story has the Thing grimly realizing he has to go to battle some villains who kidnapped his girlfriend and the Hulk’s story ends up with him captured by the Hulk Busters!
Of course, my favorite books on tape were some that my mom made for me. I liked Dr. Suess and other books and my mom recorded some of these onto cassette for me to listen to. That’s something I wish I still had and that the Internet can’t ever really replace!