Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Further Chronicles of Benny's Hand

Has there ever been such a high concentration of deformities in one small rectangle of painted space? Violet's mini-foot is perhaps the most unsettling, but none of the children seem to be particularly fortunate where appendages are concerned.

Benny has claw meat instead of fingers

The Boxcar Children are spending the summer on Surprise Island, and their mouths are crammed fuller than ever with some of the most unfortunate dialogue ever written. What is the surprise, you are wondering? The surprise is that the Boxcar Children are sexy as hell now. This is technically okay for me to notice, since the Boxcar Children don't age, and I'm pretty sure that makes them fair game in my state (Georgia). Benny, for instance, is a forty-year-old child, and what could be hotter? Anyway, you're judging me now, but try not feeling intrigued while reading this conversation between Grandfather Alden and his grandsons:

"You said the surprise was something you liked to do yourself when you were fifteen," Henry told him.
"Yes, or even six," said Mr. Alden, looking at Benny.

Or this one, between Benny and his brother:

"Benny, come here," said Henry. "Did you know that today is your birthday?"
"No," said Benny, walking over to his brother.
"Well, it is," Henry went on, "and now what do you want for a present? We will buy it for you."
"Cream," said Benny.
"Do you mean ice cream?" asked Henry.
"No, I don't. I mean cream in a bottle like milk. A big bottle...not a little one."

Or this one, between Henry and his grandfather:

"Think of the nicest surprise you can," said Henry. "What would that thing be?"
"It wouldn't be a thing; it would be a man," said Mr. Alden.

Or this one, between Benny and his cousin Joe:

"I got two presents for my birthday," said Benny, "a new cousin and a bottle of cream."
"I feel as if it were my birthday," said Joe, looking at him.

So many people are looking at Benny in this book, and no wonder. Here is a representative illustration of his physical charms:

 Benny experiments with his friend in a cave, 
his face is a mask of pure anticipation

A human foot is never the same
after it has stepped 
on the hot
of Surprise Island


Anonymous said...

This is the funniest thing I have ever read.

wv: trantat

Tricia said...

I have to get my hands on the rest of the books, they are such a gold mine!

ron hardy said...

Honestly Tricia, this is hysterical. This painting reminds me of those find-20-things-wrong-with-this-picture. Are we to assume there is an activated Van Degraff generator off frame on Violet's side. Why else would her pony tail be sticking straight out? Also I would have to believe, from this illustration, that Benny is a dummy and the kids are practicing ventriloquism. Like most dummies his head exudes that shiny, eerie, disproportionate look. A large head on a hopeless body. And I estimate that the boat deck is only about four feet wide. Are we to assume he is standing on a catamaran? You have completely eroded an American institution. I think I will go find the Hardy Boys and imagine why Fenton, their father, was never around? I love that you have figured out that the Boxcar Children are like the kids in Tuck Everlasting.

Tricia said...

Haha, I almost mentioned the fact that Violet's ponytail is blowing in a gust of No Wind, but there were so many other things wrong that I just never got around to it. My question is, why did 80s children's book illustrators have such a hard time with perspective?

ron hardy said...

Because in the 80's we had no perspective. Ha. We, being, the entities that put forth what they felt children should read. Maybe the cover unconsciously reflects everything about books like this for that time. A lack of depth in character development, plot, and sense of place. A kind of flatland sense of the world. As in say Pleasantville. This genre and young adult appears to have gone through some changes in the past thirty to forty years. And not without controversy.

Anonymous said...

How can I read more of your poetry?

Tricia said...

If you google "patricia lockwood poem" you'll find some of my work. I should probably put up a sidebar or something pointing to published poems, but I'm not very good about remembering to self-promote.

Admiral Farragut said...

Benny is clearly a lobster-boy. Notice that both of the books you've referenced took place near water? It's my theory that the original boxcar was contaminated after the government used it to transport nuclear material to secret military installations. That's why it was abandoned in the woods. The Boxcar Children are horrible nuclear genetic mutations who solve mysteries. What fun!

Anonymous said...

Have already done so, perhaps a few too many times. Could I persuade you to put something together? I'd pay you of course.

Tricia said...

Admiral, Benny is definitely a lobster-boy, and that book is full of his chowder!

Anonymous, do I know you? I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for but if you don't want your name on here you can always email me at happybirthdaywallace at yahoo dot com.

Jennifer Lowe said...

Hi, I am the crazy lady from HFR (well one of us—the one who friended you on Facebook earlier?) and I have to say I'm cry-laughing at this, after a truly horrible day, so thank you, no THANK YOU. May I put you on my blogroll? These posts are genius. Also I think we like a lot of the same poets....

Patricia Lockwood said...


You'll notice this is not exactly a "poetry blog" but perhaps that is all to the better