Tuesday, March 11, 2008


The Book: Clifton Fadiman, editor; THE WORLD TREASURY OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, Book II. Little, Brown, 1984. Fine book in good dust jacket; spine is badly sun-faded, jacket is creased and scuffed.
First read: 1990
Owned since: 1990

I've done some shopping for baby presents lately, and I like to give new parents books. You can't start reading to kids too early. Books make the world bigger, and shape children's understanding and expectations of how the world works.

This is the second volume of a three-volume set; I gave the first volume to a little girl I tutored, years ago. Book II includes several of my favorite children's stories, including Chapter One of Ramona the Pest, Harry Allard's The Stupids Step Out, "Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents," and the complete text of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.

My favorite story in this collection, though, is Maria Leach's "The Yellow Ribbon," which I first heard a version of in Girl Scouts. It is a very short story -- not even two pages long -- about John and Jane, who are sweethearts from childhood. Jane wears a yellow ribbon around her neck every day. John always asks Jane, "Why do you wear the yellow ribbon?" and Jane always says that maybe she'll tell him later.

They grow up and get married and get old together, and one day, when Jane is very old and very sick, John asks again why she wears the yellow ribbon.

"All right," said Jane, "you can untie it."

So John untied the yellow ribbon, and Jane's head fell off.

When I was nine years old, I thought that was hilarious. It still makes me laugh. Something is wrong with me...


norby said...

I always heard the yellow ribbon story as a ghost story.

But I read all the Ramona books, and the Stupids.

Weren't there separate Henry and Beezus books too?

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Well, as long as it doesn't make you laugh so hard your head falls off, there's nothing wrong with it.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Stephen King read that story while growing up? It would explain a lot.

Richard B.

Larry said...

And, Jane said, "ESAU!"

AnswerGirl said...

Yes, there were separate Henry and Beezus books, and even one about Henry's dog, Ribsy. Loved them all.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you also found it hilarious. I have read the story (and, today, just *told* it) to two groups of fourth-graders. All of the kids burst out laughing, both times. I never perform it as a scary story, though; instead, I make it a mooshy-gooshy romantic tale, with lots of silly gestures and inflections. Then the punchline comes out deadpan. They love it.

Anonymous said...

The Yellow Ribbon is my all time favorite story ever. I love telling it to people who have never heard it before. Thank you for telling more people about this awsome little story.

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing this when I was in kindergarten (1970). This is the story that the public librarian read to my class on a field trip. We were traumatized and I have never forgotten it. It amazes me that so many people saw it as humorous.... I must have had a very wicked librarian.... poor little 5 year olds.!!! LOL
Thanks for the memories!