THIS IS NOT A BOOK FOR CHILDREN! The choice of bringing a book out of the dustbin of history and making it more easily available to the general public should be an easy decision, right? Not in the case of The Wonderful Electric Elephant written by Frances Montgomery.
On the surface, it seemed like an ideal candidate. It is in the public domain, was marketed for children, and is an early work of science fiction by a woman. However, I hesitated after reading the original book because of its disgusting content. This is not a book suitable for children. There are extremely troubling parts with ugly violence and gut-wrenching racism. How does one confront historical things that are abhorrent?
One could just pretend they don't exist, or present them without comment. But that is a passive endorsement of such material, allowing evil to continue. Or one can leave the book difficult to access and say, The Wonderful Electric Elephant is inappropriate, but then that can lead to others saying, “Well, how bad can it be? It was a children’s book. You must be exaggerating or you are just overly sensitive.” Therefore, to allow adult listeners to make their own judgments, I included the complete text from the 1903/1904 version. Listeners can hear exactly what Frances Montgomery wrote and decide for themselves what they think of it. Parts of this novel are a vile stain on history and society. But, I must also add that she wrote some innovative ideas and had some imaginative concepts which were ahead of her time. So, at the end of each chapter I have placed my annotation on that chapter pointing out the positive and negative elements.
These are my conclusions from reading the novel. You may have a different opinion. I certainly admit I could be mistaken. But I do not think evil ideology can be ignored, minimized, glossed over, or just wished away. I point out the bad and the good. I invite adults to listen to this novel, and my annotation, and come to their own conclusions.
-John Allen Thornton