Memiors of a Professional Child

I have a confession to make.

I’m a kid.

I think Sir Barrie had it right when he said, “I don’t ever want to grow up”. He didn’t, either, by the way. Even with such luminary friends as H.G. Welles, to whom he once said, “”It is all very well to be able to write books, but can you waggle your ears?” He also was said to have loved ordering Brussels sprouts, of which he remarked, “”I cannot resists ordering them. The words are so lovely to say.”

Simple joys are so very important. Especially in difficult times.

And we have had some of those lately, haven’t we? In fact, if you ask some certain individuals of my acquaintance, we still are, and the hard times will only be getting worse from here. Daily I read posts on Facebook linking to articles about how the government (of America of which I, personally, am a citizen), is trying to take over (news flash: they don’t really have to try), or how the jobs will keep getting less and less until the corporations have totally taken every red cent from the people (not really possible, considering who would buy their products then?) , and the like.

I hate those posts.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not naive enough to think that bad things aren’t going on in the world, and I certainly don’t condone many of the goings-on in the government and among big corporations right now, but for me, I can’t imagine how anyone can live with the constant fear of impending doom over their head day in and day out. I suppose those people have lost their “muchness”, as Johnny Depp puts it in the “Alice” movie (which I do condone, as it does not assume to remake the books but only adds to Carroll’s legacy). They can no longer see the light of magic, the joy of hope. For them, I am sorry.

But for me, I will remain a child at heart. Always.

Because it is in childhood that we see the beauty of a rainbow, and don’t even stop to think about weather homosexuality is good or bad. It is in childhood that we look at the stars and see the immense awe of the universe, but never once consider what religion is the “right” one through which to ponder such things. And it is in childhood that we imagine the future with hope and optimism, without once thinking the word “impossible”.

I study children’s literature on the graduate level. For those of you who regularly read my blog (thank you), you know this not only because I always say it (I’m kindasorta proud of it… kinda), but through the graduate papers I post. I’m asked often how I can study children’s books so deeply: are there really any existential, meaningful themes in kids’ books that warrant such study?

Pardon my language, but HELL yes. There are.

Childhood is when human beings start thinking on a philosophical level, but that level is still so raw, so basic, that it seems worthless to most “great” adult thinkers and scholars. I argue that it is only in going back to the basics that we can truly understand the real meaning of life. To study children’s literature is to study the human condition through its most basic form. When we truly understand where from we have come, only then can we see where we are — and should be — going. Children are literally the future of our world. I feel that it is, therefore, vital that we not only understand them better, but show them the power they possess to change it. I myself do that through the magical and fantastic adventures of  literary heroes who are, like them, very young and very insecure. Studying the great children’s writers of the past is a perfect way to learn how to do that powerfully and effectively.

Are kids’ books all that important? Again… HELL yes, they are.

And to drive my point home harder, here is a list of some of the deepest, most influential children’s books that I have recently studied. I bet you fondly recognize at least one, and that it touched you in an important way:

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

May Bird and the Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Peter Pan: The Story of Peter and Wendy by Sir James Michael Barrie

The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Are you There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

Matilda by Roald Dahl

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankewiler by E.L. Koingsburg

A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

“The Narnia Chronicles” by Clive Staples Lewis

The Trumpet of the Swan. by Fred Marcellino

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snickett

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

There are many more, but that’s already a pretty long list. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

And so, when people ask me what I do for a living, I often say “I am a professional child”. What better occupation could there possibly be?

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2 Responses to “Memiors of a Professional Child”

  1. Darinka Says:

    Love it, and read a lot of the books on your list.

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