“Fun with Dick and Jane” was the first book I ever read. 6-years-old, the first grade, 1962. After reading it, I gave it a big thumb’s up. The book had good character development. And situations that I, as a modern 6-year-old could identify with. Plus, Spot the dog.
Those first “Dick and Jane” books were pretty rudimentary. “Look, Jane, look.” “See Spot.” “Run, Spot, run.”
But I vividly remember one of those “Dick and Jane” books that came along a little later in the series. This book was a little more sophisticated. It had an actual plot. The story started with Dick wishing he was big and strong. He wanted to get big muscles and be a big he-man. I guess to impress Jane with his manly physique. So Dick asked this man in his neighborhood, Mr. Jones, if he had any ideas about how he could buff up. Mr. Jones was lounging around in a lawn chair in his back yard.
“Hmm. Let me think, Dick, think,” said Mr. Jones. “But while I’m thinking I want you to do me a favor.” Mr. Jones pointed to a big pile of fire wood in his backyard. “While I’m thinking I want you to saw that wood for me. The sound of the saw helps me to think.”
So Dick started sawing away. While Mr. Jones sat there thinking away (though it looked suspiciously like Mr. Green was actually sleeping, enjoying a nice afternoon nap).
This went on for a couple of days. Dick sawing away. And Mr. Jones thinking away.
Finally Dick says: “I’m tired of sawing wood. Did you think up and ideas for how I could get big and strong?”
“I did,” said Mr. Jones. “Look, Dick, look. Look at your arm.”
Dick looked at his arm and was surprised to find that there was a big muscle on his bicep. From all the wood-sawing he’d been doing. That crafty Mr. Jones had been pulling a fast one on ole’ Dick all along.
I got a tremendous kick out of this story. It must have made a real impression, because I still remember it clear as a bell, 53 years later. I think because it was the first book I had ever ready that had an actual plot twist to it. It was one step advanced from the old “Run, Spot, run” schtick. It had an actual point. A concept. Like a surprise punchline to a joke even. It was my introduction to conceptual thinking in literature.
I concluded that this whole reading and books thing had a lot of potential, and it might be something I might want to keep pursuing over the years.