After Christmas, I spent a few days with my parents. My mum had some boxes of books from her parents and grandparents that she hadn’t gone through yet and we spent a lovely afternoon going through the books. The oldest book we found was from 1872!
One gem was a book called Wong the Patriot: The Adventures of a Chinese Schoolboy by Iris Corbin. This book was published in 1934 and was gifted to my grandfather.
I was keen to read this as, on the surface, I was expecting something that was incredibly racist and out dated. I also studied the Chinese revolution at school and this book was written before Chairman Mao established the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
Reading this, I was surprised. There were some problematic words that are now used as derogatory terms, but wouldn’t have been in 1934. It was, however, quite a ‘Christian’ story. My mum explained that her grandparents were strict Methodists, so that would explain this aspect of the story.
With the faith-based information, some of it was quite preachy. It also took on a different meaning knowing that these characters would have been killed or sent to ‘re-education’ camps in the early days of the Chinese revolution.
The length of the book was also shorter than many middle grade books that are published today. It was formatted mostly text with a few detailed illustrations in black and white at the start that highlighted a couple of scenes. I’m not sure how historically & culturally accurate the images are, though. The paper was a lot thicker than in books today.
It was really interesting reading this book as there were long periods where nothing seemed to happen as the main character was in hospital for weeks due to a gun-shot wound! There was also a lot of adventure and some interesting twists.
This was the only book I managed to read cover-to-cover as I was only there for a few days and my nephews also wanted to spend time with me… plus we went to the beach and did other holiday-type things. There were some really interesting books in the boxes and I look forward to reading some more of them & sharing my thoughts with you.
What is the oldest book you’ve ever read, excluding popular classics?