Sixth Attempt at Explaining the Importance of Children's Books   

          Reading...and why grownups should read them.
Like the title says, I've tried writing this post five times. I keep sliding into dead ends and inconsequent thinking.

Why, why, why? When I try to write on this subject, I end up being trite ("They're classic! Alice in Wonderland! Beatrix Potter!) or sentimental ("I cried when Old Yeller died!") or preachy ("Think of the life-lessons in The Little Match Girl"!). Then my own mind turns traitor and asks, "Well, Mary, what about serious books? Crime and Punishment, The Gulag Archipelago, Madame Bovary, Jude the Obscure?" Cowed, I back away from writing the post, feeling like an intellectual lightweight. (And I've read Crime and Punishment, and Jude the Obscure.)

But I return to the subject, because I think it matters, and seems worth a sixth attempt.

There are certain kinds of insight and thought that can, IMO, best be expressed in a children's story. Because it's a forum with unique qualities:
If we did, we'd be better able to believe remarkable things about ourselves. Somewhere deep inside, each of us cherishes the hope that we are special and that, against all odds, someone sees our specialness. Children's books take this as a given, and shine a bright light on the path the hero must take, then give that hero help with serendipitous meetings and surprising bits of good fortune dumped in his lap. Such things are the bread and butter of kiddie lit. Adults find them easy to dismiss. We forget that the odds against each of us existing at all are overwhelming, that we should thank God for the day we get to live in, and for the blessings on our plate.

That's my point. Children's books encourage us to believe good things, impossible things, can happen, and that they can happen to us. To you, to me. Allow me to close with a paragraph from my new book, Feathergill's Fabulous Emporium. This describes my main character:

The fact is, Elizabeth had no idea how important she was. It is unpopular, nowadays, for the narrator to step into the story to tell the reader things, but it seems necessary in this case, because our character has no idea... Elizabeth is still walking around Granger's Green without a clue that the story is all about her. And while we're at it, we will add that every person reading this book is in something of the same predicament. Most of us don't know the importance of our own story - and in Elizabeth's case, it is almost too late...

Well, clearly you'll have to read the book to find out what happens. But rest assured, Elizabeth's story holds a happy ending. Let's consider that this is true for each of us. If you find this difficult, may I suggest picking up a good children's book?

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As always, thanks for reading.