When Children’s Books Aren’t Just for Children

Staying up last night to watch Superbowl 46 meant that The Native and I didn’t crawl into bed until 3.30am.   We have spent the day full of self-inflicted exhaustion, counting each hour in the build-up to putting The Duchess to sleep and relishing in that moment when her eyelids drop and we can choose to go to bed at 8.15pm, if we like.  This has all meant that today has been full of quiet pottering around the house with no real energy to attend to the everyday and so instead The Duchess and I took a short walk into town to pick up some Velcro from the haberdashery that I have needed for some time now.  We visited the local shop down around the corner to top up our lunch supplies.  But we spent most of our day in her Nursery and as she played, I sank into the chair in the corner and observed her explorations of her tiny world.  Over she’d go to the vast pile of ironing, pulling each piece of clothing down around her lap and grinning at the wonderful new pile she was creating.  Shuffling from surface to surface to investigate which objects might sustain her weight, she would support herself on what is now her old bouncy chair, as she no longer has any use for sitting in it.  Often, with excited anticipation on her face, she would make trips over to her box of books and pull them out, her chubby fingers attempting to get a grip on the pages, hoping to turn them to see what each cardboarded piece of treasure might hold.

I decided to grab one of her books that we have only read once.  It is too old for her.  It’s not a board book and it has far too many pages for the fleeting attention span of an eight month old.  But I decided I’d sit down with her and begin to read it anyway.  Four pages in and she let out a frustrated whine and scooted away, but I read on aloud.  I realized that I was reading the book, not to her, but to myself.  Because sometimes, even when they have colourful covers and beautiful illustrations, the story in children’s books are more for grown-ups than anybody else who may be turning the pages.  These rare books are full of words that have the potential to hold your inexperienced hand through childhood as you begin to see that the world isn’t exactly as you thought.  These words are also full of advice that you realize, as an adult, those closest to you failed to give, or just couldn’t find the way to say it, or hadn’t learnt these lessons for themselves yet.  They show you in what ways the world can be mean, lonely, or cruel, but that there is always hope.  And because children seem to hold onto this belief inherently, I do wonder if perhaps Dr. Seuss wrote this particular story to the parents who would be reading this, more than for the child who sits on their lap.

Still, I hope that instead of a book, I can be the one that stands by The Duchess to teach and support her as she learns these wonderful and hard lessons, even if we do use Dr. Seuss to help us talk it through.

Image: iphone-screenshots.com

Excerpts from:

 …..Oh, the places you’ll go!  There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored.  There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame!  You’ll be famous as famous can be,
With the whole wide world watching you win on TV. 

 Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.

 I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely game too.
Games you can’t win
‘cause you’ll play against you.

 All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot. 

 And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
That can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

 But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
Though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
A frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak. 

 On and on you will hike.
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are. 

Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So….get on your way!

 Oh, The Places You’ll Go! was published when Dr. Seuss was 86 years old, one year before his death.

Do you have a childhood book that means something to you?  


7 thoughts on “When Children’s Books Aren’t Just for Children

  1. Lauren

    Not a book, but a poem. Listen to the Mustn’ts – Shel Silverstein. Planning on doing something with it either in Kendall’s next room re-do, or the next nursery…whenever the need for that arises. 🙂

  2. Stacey

    The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    Both hold value for children but should be revisited throughout our lives. The message can hold so many layers that we can’t understand it all at once and your own life experiences will change how you view them. There are a few ‘young adult’ books that are like that too.

  3. lowimpactmama

    Lovely post – I love how my son’s relationship with books (and therefore my own!) is evolving. It’s so enjoyable to read and have fun with books. PS I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Blog Award. Hope that’s OK!

  4. Pingback: 20-02-12 Love Books Weekly Showcase

  5. Pingback: 20-02-12 Love Books Weekly Showcase | Books

  6. h0pefulmummy

    i found this book sometime ago and have now given it to friends and relatives and strangers too… it’s a valuable lesson and inspirational too. i have read it often since my little girl was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy – i had a choice, to live life to the full or stay in the waiting place – my family chose to go to great places… thanks for this post – i popped over from LAB


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