4.25.2011

Easing into a second childhood

Yesterday I turned 69 and, as planned for some time now, began to ease into my second childhood. To mark the passage, I have for the last couple of weeks. with a selection of books, celebrated those carefree days of youth.

With special thanks to the talented readers at Talking Books Services for the Visually Impaired, I recommend:

THE HARRY POTTER SERIES
J. K. Rowling

For the third time, I listened to the seven books comprising J. K. Rowling’s unsurpassed and ultimate children’s saga. Her genius lies in letting her books “grow up” with her readers, and what emerged was a story for all ages.

For me the most magical words in these magical works were those spoken by brave little Neville Longbottom during the battle fought in the Ministry of Magic’s Department of Mysteries.

With five friends lying injured or unconscious, Harry is cornered by ten of Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters. Lucius Malfoy tells him, “You are not in a position to bargain, Potter. You see, there are ten of us and only one of you. Or, hasn’t Dumbledore ever taught you how to count?”

Neville staggers into the Death Chamber, his wand at the ready, and through his bloody nose shouts, “He’s dot alone! He’s still god be!” (“He’s not alone! He’s still got me!”)

And me. And a world of readers.

THE COMPLETE TALES OF WINNIE THE POOH
A. A. Milne

The author based “Winnie the Pooh” and “The House at Pooh Corner” on his own son, Christopher Robin Milne, and the boy’s collection of stuffed animals. Milne gave his wife full credit for suggesting his stories, and dedicated the first book, “To her: Hand in hand we come, Christopher Robin and I, to lay this book in your lap. Say you’re surprised, say you like it, say it’s just what you wanted, because it’s yours, because we love you.”

From the book jacket: “Elegant yet simple; whimsical yet wise.”

Milne takes you to “an enchanted place” and leaves you there.

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Kenneth Grahame

“The mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home, first with brooms, then with dusters, then on ladders and steps and chairs with a brush and a pail of whitewash ‘til he had dust in his throat and eyes and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur and an aching back and weary arms.

“Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor and said, ‘Bother!’ And ‘oo-bloo!’ And also, ‘Hang spring cleaning!’ and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the graveled carriage drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air.

“So, he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrootched, and then he scrootched again, and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, ‘Up we go! Up we go!’ ‘til at last – pop! – his snout came out into the sunlight. …”

These opening words about a little blind animal, tired of cleaning, grabbed my heart in a personal way. It’s terrible to clean and not be able to see the results of your labor. He escaped from drudgery into a world where he – and I – can behold the wonders Grahame’s word pictures create.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Harper Lee

Although I’ve seen the film many times, I had never read this modern-day classic. I added it to my reading list because it is primarily the story of children, learning about life from the adults around them. So, once more, here are Scout, Jem, Dill, Boo Radley and Atticus Finch, this time in Miss Lee’s words.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA
C. S. Lewis

And finally, in the days ahead, 31 hours of listening to “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and the six other stories in C. S. Lewis’ fictional fantasy.

All of these books transport you to another world - whether Hogwarts, The Hundred-Acre Wood, Toad Hall or a small Southern town – where children are brave, animals sometimes talk, magic in all its senses is real and goodness prevails.

***

If I don’t achieve a second childhood, I will have at least achieved a degree of purification – armor against realities and the ever-stifling effects of commiserating with the elderly.

12 comments:

tnlib said...

As you already know, I'm not into fantasy all that much, or sci fi, or anything like that. It doesn't stem from "intellectual snobbishness" - I could never get into it even as a kid. In the 6th grade, the school librarian even complained to my mother that I was reading too many biographies. LOL.

But if you have achieved a "a degree of purification – armor against realities and the ever-stifling effects of commiserating with the elderly," you're a thousand steps ahead of me.

Happy Birthday (and I love To Kill a Mockingbird).

B.J. said...

tnlib: I loved fairy tales as a kid and then sharing them with my boys. I read a lot of children’s books to them (and to my buddy Chris) As far as the fantasy genre, I read Tolkien. But, it has only been in the last few years that I have come to appreciate it. The Harry Potters knocked my socks off. Like you, I read every one of those biographies in the elementary school library – those orange books, remember? I still love biographies!

Katherine said...

I'd like to suggest one more to add to your excellent list. (Winnie The Pooh remains one of my all-time favorites):

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. It's a powerhouse disguised in simplicity.

B.J. said...

Thanks, Katherine! I’ve seen that title somewhere recently. Possibly a movie Chris wants me to watch. I checked the International Movie Database (IMDb) and the film was made in 1974. Review says it “captures the spirit of the book.” I much prefer to read a book before I see a movie (and don’t know how I missed Mockingbird all these years). I look forward to the read.

I had no idea how special Winnie the Pooh is!

Debra said...

Hey B.J.,
Enjoyed your blog today. I love reading and also reading to my three sons from birth through school. As they got older,I would read every book that all three were required to read in school, (due to the fact that I needed to be able to ask them questions to make sure they had read the books they were suppose to. You know boys will be boys.) And surprisingly pleased with every book I read. Reading-the best part is picturing the words turning into real life images and seeing the visions in your head of who the characters look like and the places you will be traveling while you read. Enjoy your second childhood.....Love, Debra

Tiny said...

Tiny is glad you are enjoying your books. She is a book worm herself. When she gets her head in a book the rest of the world goes away.

In the event of dating herself, Tiny likes to go back to her complete set (7) of the McGuffey Electik Readers used in the one-room grammar school, grades 1-6. Anyone else remember those?

The year she started first grade, they closed the one-room and moved all of us kids to a new yellow brick school with numerous class rooms in the heart of the village. No pot belly stove in the middle of any room either.

So enjoy that second childhood and all the fantasy to your hearts content. Memories are wonderful and we can visit those times and places anytime we choose.

Hope you 69th year is full of love, laughter, good health, and enjoyment filled with countless blessings.

Murr Brewster said...

Happy birthday! I still love Winnie the Pooh, although I recall Dorothy Parker said the books made her "want to fwow up." And I was hooked on Narnia as a child. I was well into my twenties when I mentioned those books to a friend who said she could never get past the Christian allegory part. I had never even considered it. Such a simple mind have I, sometimes....

tnlib said...

I hadn't even thought of children's fairy tales. Loved them and read them to my children along with many, many other books. Just not Winnie or Tolkien. Am totally with Dorothy Parker on Winnie.

Those orange bios were exactly what I read. And didn't they have a black silhouette on the front?

Annelle said...

Love it....great way to celebrate a birthday.

B.J. said...

Thanks for all the comments so far! Since Dorothy Parker has been introduced to the discussion, let me say the woman led a terribly unhappy existence. She answered her telephone, “What fresh hell is this?” Yes, she was a wit of the Algonquin Round Table, but that didn’t make her any less miserable. I would suggest she would not be equipped to criticize the joyful heart of A.A. Milne! But, then she criticized everyone. When someone told her Calvin Coolidge had died, she asked, “How would they know?”

The Winnie the Pooh stories could not be any more charming and witty and full of sweet lessons. They are a light-hearted, modern-day version of Aesop’s fables.

Don’t ever think that “fantasy” isn’t serious!

ZENA, QUEEN OF THE UNIVERSE said...

Awesome post. I know that somewhere in the back of my mind I know who Dorothy Parker is, but I can’t seem to place her. Please enlighten me. And I love Winnie the Pooh. Pooh on those people not liking him!! Now you have reminded me about Narnia. I have the whole set of books but have not read them. Cari and I were reading the first one and about halfway through it got lost. I refused to read the others until I found that one, which I do recall that I found about 2 years later. Now I need to go back and read all of them. Great idea!

B.J. said...

Zena:

Dorothy Parker was an Americna poet and satirist famous for her wisecracks. She was one of the founders of a very famous group. The Algonquin Hotel in New York City had a big round table which was reserved for this group, and the group became known as “The Algonquin Round Table.” The group was made up of New York City writers, critics, playwrights, actors and wits.

One Christma Mark’s mother gave me a copy of Parker’s biography which had just hit the bookstores, “What Fresh Hell Is This?” (That’s how Parker answered her telephone.) I became fascinated with her and the Round Table. There have also been two fairly recent movies (and a number of older movies and plays) about Parker. Since you are on NetFlix, see if you can get “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle,” starring Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh nailed her and received several best actress nominations.

Anyway, this group was (and is) very famous, and I think fascinating.

Dorothy Parker died a bitter and lonely woman, a very tragic figure. (She should have read Winnie the Pooh.) The NAACP, because of her support of civil rights, took her ashes and buried them in a memorial garden in Baltimore, pointing out on the plaque that she wanted her epitaph to be “Excuse my dust!”

Here are two links for your reading enjoyment:

DOROTHY PARKER:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Parker

ALGONQUIN ROUND TABLE::

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algonquin_Round_Table