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Review: Steve Roud, 'Lore of the Playground'

Desert Dancer 13 Jan 11 - 03:11 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Jan 11 - 04:43 PM
GUEST,SteveT 14 Jan 11 - 06:21 AM
GUEST, topsie 14 Jan 11 - 07:18 AM
Fred McCormick 14 Jan 11 - 07:27 AM
*#1 PEASANT* 14 Jan 11 - 07:32 AM
GUEST,erbert 14 Jan 11 - 07:49 AM
*#1 PEASANT* 14 Jan 11 - 08:50 AM
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Subject: Review: Steve Roud, 'Lore of the Playground'
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 03:11 PM

EFDSS alerts us to this review on TES Connect, a social network from the Times Educational Supplement (UK) (the author of the review is not given):

The Lore of the Playground: One Hundred Years of Children's Games, Rhymes and Traditions
By Steve Roud
Random House Books
£20

"What I have set out to do in The Lore of the Playground," writes Steve Roud in his introduction, "is to disprove the pessimists who think children no longer play and show how games and rhymes have been endlessly modified and reinvented, or sometimes abandoned and replaced, over the past century."

Five hundred or so pages of carefully researched, elegantly written and well-presented material later, the case is well and truly wrapped up. Our playgrounds are as vibrant and inventive, as much fun and almost as furious as ever.

Some activities have changed, some have become obsolete and some have simply endured. The playground is a foreign country and children do things differently there, but do them at full throttle they most certainly still do.

Despite "the cultural dominance of television and computer games" and fears that children are forgetting how to play, "there is no evidence that there is much to panic about", says Roud.

There is still ample scope for nostalgia, however. The game of conkers has almost died out. Ball "tig" is much less popular than it used to be. And games such as "splits", which I remember playing as a child, have gone altogether.

This may not be altogether a bad thing as splits involved throwing a knife to the side of your opponent's feet. Roud also recalls playing the game himself, adding with commendable honesty: "This was particularly popular with boys in the 1960s when miniskirts were in fashion, which is perhaps the reason I remember it so well." One suspects that knife laws, health and safety and other modern "inconveniences" have accounted for the demise of splits, British bulldog and many of the other rough-house games that defined our primary years.

Clapping games, on the other hand, are the big winners in the fight for the playground. Older and rougher hand games such as knuckles and dish-a-loof, "which would make the blood spurt from the top of every finger" have survived in modified form, but clapping "is the real growth area of the late twentieth-century playground ... and there has been a steady extension of repertoire and method over the last fifty years," Roud writes.

Accompanying rhymes have grown alongside them, including some amusing "naughty ones" involving licking the baby's bum (1990s) and having dolly mixtures stuffed down your knickers in the cinema (1983).

In fact, rhymes in general prove a source of endless fascination throughout these pages, although I suspect that many might dispute the categorisation of the following gem as a nonsense rhyme:

Girls' faults are many

Boys have only two

Everything they say

And everything they do (1984)

A genuine cause of nostalgia, though, is that all of these games are now abruptly cut off when primary school is left behind and secondary school begun. Interestingly, this was not so in the international school at which I worked.

When we deliberately introduced a programme to teach our primary children traditional English games, secondary pupils immediately jumped on the bandwagon and the playground became a blur of skipping ropes swung by all ages and both sexes as notions of "cool" were quickly forgotten. It was exhilarating to watch.

The Lore of the Playground is a book packed with games, rhymes, chants, rituals and social observation and it constantly turns up interesting things. Did you know, for instance, that the ubiquitous rock, paper, scissors is of Asian origin? That in many schools the schoolmaster was paid a fee to supply game-cocks to fight on Shrove Tuesday? That ring-a-ring-a-roses almost certainly has nothing to do with the plague or that twisting an apple stem back and forth while reciting the alphabet can predict the name of your future lover?

In short, this book is an absolute treasure chest of children's folklore, and we should be indebted to The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren for both building on and bringing up to date Iona and Peter Opie's pioneering work on children's folklore in the 1950s and 60s. It is a debt that Roud frequently and generously acknowledges, and in The Lore of the Playground he proves himself their thoroughly worthy successor. Whether your interest is folklore, nostalgia or trivia, or you simply want a resource book of games and rhymes, this magnum opus will not disappoint.

About the author - Steve Roud

Steve Roud is local studies librarian for the London borough of Croydon and served as honorary librarian of the Folklore Society for over 15 years. He has been researching British folklore for over 30 years and is the joint author of the Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore and The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland, which won the Katharine Briggs Folklore Award in 2004. He lives in Sussex.

The verdict - 10/10.


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Subject: RE: Review: Steve Roud, 'Lore of the Playground'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Jan 11 - 04:43 PM

Absolutely!
This book is as much a gem as the Opies' book. I remember reading avidly the Opies' book 'The Lore and Language of School Children' as a child and often think that may have influenced my eventual passage into folk song study. It definitely inspired me to note down all of my own games and rhymes and eventually my own family songs and those of the surrounding community.

Before you ask, yes, this is the same Steve Roud of the Roud Index, often quoted in this forum.


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Subject: RE: Review: Steve Roud, 'Lore of the Playground'
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 06:21 AM

With reference to the comment that "all of these games are now abruptly cut off when primary school is left behind and secondary school begun. Interestingly, this was not so in the international school at which I worked.":- I noticed when moving from working in a co-ed school to a single sex girls' school in 1990 that games were surviving well in the single sex school although they had not been present in the co-ed school; except for boys' football.

I also remember discussing play-space layouts with architects when looking to design a new co-ed school in 1997 and being told that girls did not require so much space but needed smaller, "alcove" spaces to sit and chat. The architects and Director of Education were quite surprised to know that girls were still happily playing skipping, tick and various other running games.

I must look at the book to see whether Steve Roud has looked at differences between types of school.


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Subject: RE: Review: Steve Roud, 'Lore of the Playground'
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 07:18 AM

As a child, one of the things I valued most was a plain flat wall, without doors or windows, with flat hard ground infront of it, for ball games that involved throwing the ball against the wall and carrying out various actions before catching it, some of which included the ball bouncing on the ground once before being caught.
The wall could also provide a support for handstands.

In Milborne Port on the Somerset/Dorset border there is a small public garden provided by a benefactor who had stipulated that it should include such a wall.


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Subject: RE: Review: Steve Roud, 'Lore of the Playground'
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 07:27 AM

I'm sure it's a great book, and I congratulate Steve on yet another important piece of work, and I look forward to getting a copy. But, Jeez, this is just the latest in a never ending flood of books, records etc which are pouring into the warehouses at the moment. How on earth can I possibly afford it all?


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Subject: RE: Review: Steve Roud, 'Lore of the Playground'
From: *#1 PEASANT*
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 07:32 AM

I am just updating my libary with the opies books. Just got them on amazon used in good condition great bargains.

Congratulations to Steve!

Conrad


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Subject: RE: Review: Steve Roud, 'Lore of the Playground'
From: GUEST,erbert
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 07:49 AM

The Opie book is my wifes 'go to' reading material when she's sat on the lav.
A very crumpled grimy dusty copy has been a permanent fixture on our bathroom floor
for as long as I can remember..
She resists every challenge to get rid of it.


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Subject: RE: Review: Steve Roud, 'Lore of the Playground'
From: *#1 PEASANT*
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 08:50 AM

There are actually several. Czech out amazon you can get them used for less than $5.

Conrad


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