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
“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
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.