It’s funny that, despite being some of the simplest stories, children’s books often carry the most poignant messages of them all.
I remember the first time I cried at a kid’s book: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. I read it a lot to Elfie after she was in the hospital, but could never get all the way through. I tried again when she was older but still failed miserably: it’s a bit of an anti-climax to read a book to a three year old and have them ask what’s wrong with your leaking face.
The main refrain is what always gets me hard in the feels. The story recounts a mother’s growing relationship with a new baby – the good times and the bad ones – but always ends with a night time lullaby:
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.
Because, well, it’s just true isn’t it? And once I found out it was a rhyme the author had written for two stillborn babies his wife had given birth to… it was all over. To date the book has sold something like 15 million copies (context – this is the population of Cambodia) and I can see why.
Then there’s Dr Seuss. Wonderful Dr Seuss! I bought Oh the Places You’ll Go for Elfie’s sixth birthday, and even though she reads herself it’s a story she loves reading together.
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own and you know what you know.
And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.
What I love about this book is how it’s the story of a child’s journey written in the absolute abstract of a dreamland; I read this to Elf and relish in the lovely metaphor of it all. She reads it and asks me, “am I actually going to fly, though?”
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will indeed!
(98 and ¾ per cent guaranteed)
(I have to admit: that bit gives me a well-needed boost if I’m having a hard day sometimes).
We haven’t read much Winnie the Pooh in this house yet (though we do like the audiobooks), but as an adult the wisdom of Piglet and co always makes me smile. I mean, there’s truly a nugget for every occasion:
About being proactive:
Pooh: You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
Pooh: If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.
About simplicity (and lunch):
Pooh: It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’
Christopher Robin: Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. (Cheating a bit – this one’s from the movie and not the books)
Pooh: How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
Pooh: If the person you are talking to does not appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in this ear.
About perspective (and breakfast):
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.
And of course, finally, the inimitable Roald Dahl, whose books I bought for Elfie at Christmas before promptly pinching them. Here’s that old favourite from The Twits:
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will always shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.
Give me your favourite kids book quotes! They truly are among the best.
For more feels see ‘B’ by Sarah Key. Amazing.