Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Children’s Literature: It's Definitely Not Just For Kids

Among my regular reading every Christmastide is “Dulce Domum,” an absolutely charming chapter from Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. And probably every other year or so I enjoy the pleasures of the whole novel. Well, recently I again took that magical pilgrimage into the River Bank and the Wild Wood, meeting once again with those characters that are among my favorites in all of literature: Ratty, Badger, Mole, Otter and yes, even that pretentious spendthrift, Mr. Toad.

I am convinced that the best literature is truly “ageless,” not merely in its having a staying power throughout numerous generations of readers but also in being able to impact readers of all ages.

Thus, gems like Winnie the Pooh, Kidnapped, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Iliad, Kon-Tiki, Peter Pan, Beau Geste, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” A Christmas Carol, the stories about Sherlock Holmes, Witness for the Prosecution, and Wind in the Willows were all discoveries of my childhood -- but my appreciation of their respective strengths is greater than ever before.

Yes, it takes more life experience as well as stronger skills in patience, vocabulary, literary criticism, etc. to appreciate the likes of Shakespeare, Solzhenitsyn or Tom Wolfe. But even such tremendous “adult reads” should never push aside those works of quality literature which truly transcend age.

So, let’s give careful attention to The Brothers Karamazov but make sure we always have room for The Brothers Grimm as well.

After all, great children’s literature is just too great to be left...well, to children.