I am unabashedly drawn to children’s books. Chances are, if you spy me at Barnes & Noble, I’ll appear a formidable hunter in the Children’s section as I ravenously prey upon my next acquisition. I really cannot
admit, disclose, say for certain just how many children’s books occupy the stash within my home. Surely, you may think… it only goes without saying they exist merely for your nieces/nephews and/or grandchildren, correct? Would you assert this despite many of them having occupied their place on the bookshelf longer than any of those children have been alive?
Facts be known, I still possess my very own Dr. Suess books from childhood, along with several others like ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and ‘Charlotte’s Web” just to name a couple. Add to that, plenty more which line the bookcase having been procured as an adult… of 40+. I get a huge kick out reading them with kids… and even with a few of my adult friends who share my fondness for ‘The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’ and ‘Fancy Nancy’. Entering our early (and fabulous I might add) 50’s, we still love sprinkles and sophisticated words such as ‘splendiferous’!
Lately, I’m posing questions to myself relative to this affinity of mine… “Why am I so enamored with their content?” “What is it about them that charms me so?” While certainly attracted to clever titles and book covers with artful illustrations, there’s just got to be more. Covers are mere invitations which weave the web of enticement so I pick up a book in the first place… or as in my case, while surveilling shelves it seems almost genie-like how a storybook leaps right off the shelf and into my hands! Before I realize it, I’m being wrapped in a web of sticky silk as I’m held spellbound by its features. I’m particularly wooed by a great message which is either overtly or surprisingly revealed and what comes next is my Visa card. Yep, I definitely qualify for one of those stamps… you know the ones – “from the library of” – just wrap my hair in a bun, pop on one of those necklace chains to hold my reading spectacles close to my bosom and Dewey Decimal here I come!
So what is this pixie dust within the binding of a great children’s book which an adult can find most bewitching?
Within the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail’, Kathleen Kelly, owner & shopkeeper of the bookstore ‘Little Shop Around the Corner’ is conversing with customer, Joe Fox as she reminiscently describes her mother’s love for books and how when her mother ran the store she was “helping people become who they’ll be”. As she expounds, she so confidently remarks:
“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way like no other reading in your whole life does”.
I suppose that’s true… and I believe the statement is more profound than I’m able to decipher. It most certainly explains my tendency toward loving rhymes and wacky words!
Overall, I would attribute it to how impressionable we are as children. As little tikes, we are pliable, trusting, and innocent absorbing the world with curiosity… so it would stand to reason we are open in a completely different way which shapes our being based on what enters our filter. As we age, our education and life experiences taint our views. Our creativity diminishes as we are instructed to color inside the lines and our life-lessons make us naturally suspicious and wary.
C.S. Lewis said:
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
By golly, I believe he hit the mark! I strive to retain my child-like wonder and claim the fun which naturally occurs as a by-product. I think Lewis made a good point in that when I choose to read a children’s selection, I’m seeking to step back into the shoes of childhood whilst reading the stories from an adult perspective. If the author can enthrall me while devoid of my youth, yet beckoning me back into the innocence of my early years while simultaneously appealing to me where I stand today… then the book has captured a dual audience in both child and older person.
Additionally, I have favorable regard for a book which has the ability to transport me back in time through a boyhood/girlhood story – yet reaffirm wisdom I’ve gained influencing me to revisit the thought, idea or precept. For example, from The Velveteen Rabbit by M. Williams:
Or from one of my early favorite authors, Dr. Suess:
And lastly, this one from Roald Dahl in his authorship of ‘The Minpins’:
There is priceless wisdom in those powerful lines!!
Perhaps being gently reminded of life’s values through a great children’s story allows us to escape the world for a bit while it affectionately tucks another wisdom nugget into our back pocket for solid retrieval when we need to face the world with glittering eyes.
Do you have a favorite children’s book? What’s your take?