The Magic of Children’s Books

Anne of Green Gables, cover art by Claire Keane.

Anne of Green Gables, cover art by Claire Keane.

Lately, I’ve come down with a severe case of literature nostalgia. I’ve had the strong desire to reread books from my childhood—from Anne of Green Gables to The Lord of the Rings. Maybe this is because I finished my “to read” list, or I’m too lazy to invest in a new book or author, or I’m killing time in between book releases in a series (*cough* The Winner’s Crime *cough* The Raven King). Or maybe I miss the quality of the characters and stories found in children’s books.

My parents always give me grief about reading children’s fiction. I’m too old, they say, and I should be reading adult books. But when I go to the adult section in the library, all I see are books by people like Nicholas Sparks and James Patterson. Not that these two men are bad authors, but I see the shelves lined with romance and crime/thriller novels, and I have absolutely no interest in those kinds of books. I have nothing against adult fiction—there are good books out there written for adults—but in general, I see a lot of generic stories.

I understand that adults are busy with jobs and families, and when they read they just want to sit down with a quick and easy read with enough drama (usually sex or spies) to keep them interested. But that isn’t what I want when I sit down with a book. I want complex characters, a story with depth and plots twists, themes and morals throughout the books. Usually, I can only find this in children’s books. How amazing are the characters in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia? How incredible is the plot in Megan Whalen Turner’s The King of Attolia?

First edition cover of C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

First edition cover of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

And children’s books don’t have to shy away from the fantastic. Wizards, magic, historical time periods, talking animals, and the like are frowned upon in adult fiction, or at least regulated to the second class status of “genre fiction”. But after so many detective novels and stories of second chances at young romances, don’t readers want something new? Something different? Something that can transport the reader back to a place where anything and everything is possible. Children’s fiction does that in a way adult fiction does not. It transports readers of any age back to that mythical feeling of childhood that adventures happen and fairies are real and good triumphs over evil. I want that feeling when I read. I want to lose myself in the book, and I think children’s authors are much better at that than adult ones.

I’m not that old; I only graduated college two years ago. But I’m old enough to miss aspects of childhood; old enough to miss how easy and exciting it was to get lost in a good story. Now in the humdrum life of an adult—job, bills, chores—perhaps we as readers need that now even more than we did as children. We need to be transported to a different world for a time, even if only for two hundred pages.

To quote Meg Ryan in the movie You’ve Got Mail, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” I guess I’m missing that in my life right now, which is why I’ve decided to go on a rereading binge. It’s time to pull out some of my childhood, or even recent young adult, books and relive the stories and the feelings they gave me. So be prepared for this blog to feature a lot of old—and some new—classics!

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

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