thoughts on books: children’s books

It’s always interesting to re-read books from your childhood. Will they still have that magical quality? Have I grown too cynical or “sophisticated” to enjoy them again? A couple of books still hit that sweet spot. I re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (and Through the Looking Glass) by Lewis Carroll and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery a few years ago and they were lovely.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was a fun book. It was the perfect book to read on the train on the way home from work. I read this one on my kindle, but anyone paying attention would have known that it was a fun book – I smiled all the way home. The dialogue, including numerous puns, was delightful. It was also fun “hearing” Alice try to process what was happening to her. The celebration of imagination in this book is a lovely counterpoint to my usual adult working world.

The characters in the book are a mix of odd and familiar and the situations Alice encounters remind us that we may not be able to solve everything or win every game. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable sometimes – it’s how we grow. And speaking of growing, Alice’s height is all over the place, reminding us that sometimes we are too big or too small, sometimes we’re the biggest and sometimes the smallest. It’s all okay. That’s what happens when you take risks and go someplace new. Alice takes lots of risks – sometimes without meaning to – and finds herself in difficulty. She learns to trust herself and find her way out of danger. For Alice, it was all a dream, but for the rest of us, it’s a nice little escape to a crazy place!

The Little Prince is a charming, delightful and beautiful little story of how a little prince visits multiple planets in an effort to better understand the universe and the adults whose puzzling behavior often baffles children. The little prince learns many lessons along the way and the reader gets to revisit childhood and innocence. Like Alice, he has an adventures and starts to view things differently.

The prince falls in love with a rose and meets a king, a lamplighter, a businessman, a geographer, and many others. From the geographer he learns about more places, including Earth, which is where a pilot has crashed his plane – he is the narrator of the prince’s story. The narrator and the prince are explorers seeking to learn new things and accepting what they learn. The prince sees that the adults he meets are often close-minded, which is sad to him. He learns about relationships and about responsibility, with the most important relationship with his rose and his responsibility to her because he loves her. She is unique and, even when he sees a field of roses, he realizes he loves his rose the best. As the prince leaves to go home, he joins the stars in the sky.

These books are hard to describe because they are so imaginative. They sound silly, but the reality is that both have profound thoughts that help us all (of any age) think about things differently. It’s important to do that at times – to take a step back from real life and breathe and thing about a magical place with characters that we don’t meet everyday but who bring a new experience for us to image.

With Thanksgiving Day approaching, wouldn’t it be nice to take a little time down a rabbit hole or to a different planet. That way, we can appreciate what we have and explore something new.