Monday, March 22, 2010

YA Through the Decades: 1950s

by Beverly Cleary
William Morrow and Company, 1956

Jane Purdy is just your normal, everyday teen growing up in the 1950s. She has babysitting jobs that she trades off sometimes with her best friend, Julie. She is not one of the popular crowd, like Marcy who has a ton of cashmere sweaters (Jane just has one), nor part of the intellectual crowd. But despite all this, she meets a boy while she is babysitting a holy terror, otherwise known as Sandra, and he's interested in her! Now if only her parents will let her go to the movies with him...

Reading this for the YA Through the Decades Challenge, I couldn't help but wonder to myself how this story would hold up today. In some ways, it's an old-fashioned read. Jane and Stan walk to the movies on a first date, Jane worries that her mother doesn't wear stockings, she puts her hair up in pin curls. As they were a little before my time, I had to look up what pin curls looked like.  My mom explained how one made them.  Another item I wasn't too sure about was the dirndl to go with Jane's peasant blouse. Turns out a dirndl can be a tight-wasted, full skirt.

But really, what I kept thinking was "the more things change, the more things stay the same." Sure, it's tame by today's YA standards - Jane's a good girl and doesn't go parking, for example - so it probably skews a little younger today than it might have fifty years ago. Yet Jane has common teenage concerns: Will I ever meet a guy who I can date? Will my parents embarrass me when this boy comes over? Why don't they understand how important this is to me? Will he call? I kept thinking how Beverly Cleary's Ramona books always seemed to hit the nail on the head of my experiences as an eight-year-old. This book did the same, if in a more nostalgic way, and I'm afraid I laughed at Jane far more than I ever laughed at Ramona's earnest eight-year-old feelings. Though I probably would not have chosen to read this book at fifteen, reading it now I could look back and see how much Jane's experience mirrored my own as a teen, even if some of the details are a little different.

Edit: I tried to upload a picture of pin curls, but for some reason it's gone, and I can't get it to upload anymore. Oh well.

1 comment:

Whitney said...

Hi Mary! You've won the YA Through the Decades challenge giveaway! Send me an e-mail ( with your address so I can send you Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly.