HOW CHILDREN’S LITERATURE SHAPED MY LIFE
“Believing takes practice.” – A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
When I was a toddler I spent countless hours in the laps of my parents, flipping page after page of books about rabbits, both stuffed and otherwise, worlds of nonsense that could only be created by a doctor who loved rhymes, and learning about a tree who had no limits when it came to how much it would give to the young boy it loved. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these moments shaped the person I would become. They taught me to understand what family means. They opened my eyes to places that looked nothing like our neighborhood. They taught me how to believe in myself and the good of the people around me.
“You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.” – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Before I knew how to read for myself, my father would sit down in the room I shared with my brother and read us a very particular Sesame Street book. We opened that book up dozens of times but I have no recollection about what the actual plot was. The reason being that Pops would change up the plot and create new events each time he opened the book, continuously growing more ridiculous with every read. I now know he was doing this so he didn’t have to tell the same story over and over but what he was creating in his two sons was the ability to imagine and create without worrying about making a fool of ourselves (which we do, often). It’s a lesson that has proved invaluable my entire life.
“To live will be an awfully big adventure.” – Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Speaking of my Pops, one of his most endearing traits is his absolute refusal to grow up and grow old. I won’t say his age, only that he is now happily retired. But regardless of the years he has lived, he continues to approach each day with childlike wonder and an excitement to see what a new sunrise will bring him. He sometimes compares himself to Peter and that thirst for life is something he has passed down to me and my siblings. It’s a gift I can never repay.
“That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether they had one, or not, upon thars.” – The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
Come on, you think I was going to get through a post about kid lit and NOT mention Theodore Geisel? I have some of his words tattooed on me for goodness’ sake. I learned a great many things from my daily visits to Whoville and letters beyond where the alphabet ends. One of the main takeaways that stayed with me is the fact that what makes us different doesn’t need to keep us apart. We should celebrate our differences and understand how they bring us together to create a more meaningful society.
“It’s the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important… You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.” – The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
There are consequences to our actions and the sooner we learn this, the more aware of our choices we become. The Little Prince helped teach me responsibility not just for myself but for the ones who would come to depend on me for their well-being. Speaking of…
“I looked at his grave and, with tears in my eyes, I voiced these words: “You were worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.” – Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
My wife and I have two dogs and there is very little in this world I cherish more than them. They fill my heart with joy and laughter every single day. I wish there was a way that they would stay with me forever but I know that is not how it works. Dogs live shorter lives than humans but they pack every second of it with excitement and love. I know someday I’ll have to say goodbye to them and the book that made me understand true loss for the first time is also the book that made me realize that the bitter sadness at the end is inevitable, but the millions of memories created before than make it bearable.
“Let the wild rumpus start!” – Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
There’s a wild thing in all of us and sometimes you need to throw on a wolf onesie and crown and let it out.