Whether it’s in a library or a bookshop, the children’s shelf is always so appealing that it makes us stop to take a look, examine the pretty covers, just hang on a moment with the vibrant colours wearing a nostalgic smile. While our reading tastes evolve as we grow up, there will always be something about children’s books that make us pause and reminisce. That’s because Children’s Literature is not written just for children! There are a lot of elements in them that are pleasing for both kids and grownups. Ever wondered what they are?
Spontaneity and whimsies
Growing up brings with it responsibilities and amidst them we forget how wonderful life is when we keep it simple. Children never over think. They’re spontaneous. They’ll chase a butterfly in a garden, they’ll look at birds in the sky in wonder. They are awestruck by the simple things in life. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge was a book I read long ago in which the protagonist Katy Carr is always bold, playful and forever getting into scrapes. The story revolves around her antics, her relationship with her siblings and widowed father. No matter how many times she gets told off by her overly strict aunt, Katy remains her usual self, without a worry in the world. This is a remarkable trait we often miss about being a child.
The safety of home and comfort of home cooked meals
Don’t we all love children’s books that begin in a home setup, have quite a few scenes around delicious home cooked food surrounded by families? Enid Blyton made simple sandwiches in a picnic basket sound scrumptious. Whether The Famous Five or Secret Seven were out solving mysteries, they’d always be home for meals. Even in Harry Potter, the feast at the beginning of the school year, during the holidays and at the end of the book was a happy affair. Meals bring people together. A comforting meal meant normalcy and safety. At the end of the day, no matter how difficult it was or what adventures the kids went through, there would be a place they could feel safe at, some place they could each call home. Come to think of it, even the stories my grandparents and parents told me had meals as an integral part. That said, the stories my sister told me were different (we both were the main characters in her stories) and often had me as the evil little sister tormenting her.
I don’t know why, but the meals we have on picnics always taste so much nicer than the ones we have indoors.
(The Famous Five: Five Go Off in a Caravan, Enid Blyton)
Believing in magic
We never expect a terrible ending in a children’s story. If there is loss, grief or dark streaks, they are compensated for in some way. Innocence always wins. Take the stories of orphan kids, for example. Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng is off to a heart wrenching start. A little baby girl is abandoned in a ‘Moon’s’ marshmallow box and that’s how she gets her name, Molly Moon. She, along with several other kids suffer under the wrath of an awful headmistress. In Roald Dahl’s Matilda, brilliant book lover Matilda also struggles to find herself in her mean relatives’ home after losing her parents. In both the cases the kids hold on to hope. They find something that sparks joy in them and create magic that literally turns their crumbling world upside down. Things always get ok in the end of children’s stories and if they don’t, well they will in the sequels!
Reinforcing values of life
Universal concepts of love, hate, good, evil, friendship, family, greed, jealousy, honesty, fear, bravery and several other emotions have puzzled us and philosophers for as long as they have been talked about. Think of these concepts from a children’s book perspective. There are no ambiguities. Take R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days, C. S. Lewis’ Narnia or Enid Blyton’s Noddy. Honesty is something that’s given utmost importance. We complicate things when we grow up, we tend to seek grey areas, whereas kids, oh they’re straightforward. Children’s books talk about lies too, but in contrast, they show us that being honest with ourselves and others, listening to our conscience will never let us down.
Ironically all children’s books are written by adults, which means we have the ability to revisit simplicity no matter how grown up we get or how life tosses us around. Try picking up a childhood favourite or a children’s book you’ve never read before. Amidst the pixies and dragons, in the school corridors or dormitories, flying on a broomstick, casting spells, or just sitting under an apple tree gazing at the sky, the battle within you might cease, your true self, the one you’ve been hiding for whatever reason might triumph and you might just discover yourself again.
This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon