Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Of Once-Loved Children's Books
Gary Kamiya has a misty-eyed reminiscence of the importance of The Wind in the Willows on its 100th birthday today in Salon and that set me to thinking about my favorite children's book (other than my own Homer*, which you ought to be able to buy this coming spring/summer), The Velveteen Rabbit, written in 1922 by Margery Williams.
The Rabbit story came to life over Thanksgiving weekend when my granddaughter, Madeline, left her "Kittycat" (actually a small tiger) somewhere in our travels around Roanoke enjoying the holiday. Of course, she fell apart. Her mother replaced the cat, but I'm not sure that ever works. There's a tie between children that that one toy, that blanky, that wilted plant, that whatever-it-is-that-captures-her-fancy. I don't understand it and I suspect psychologists are stumped, too, but we all recognize it and know its validity.
I always loved--and identified with--the rough-looking, thoroughly worn Skinhorse, the child's former favorite in Rabbit, because its lesson about love is so thoroughly kind, human and proper. Either book would be a marvelous gift this Christmas for Madeline, especially if they come wrapped with a grandpa to read them.
* OK, the Homer reference is a shameless plug. I'm not above that.
(Blue Ridge Country magazine editor Cara Modisett responds:
"Well, I must respond with two related memories - first the favorite books from childhood - I loved "The Velveteen Rabbit," too, but C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" shaped my imagination for years. My mother gave them to me, one by one, each new installation as I finished the last, so I could look forward to the story continuing like a Charles Dickens serial. Next to "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" - what a world. And I don't care what the publishers do with putting "The Magician's Nephew" in some too-logical chronological order - LWW still comes first.
"And my first and forever lost toy was a little stuffed koala bear that disappeared in the woods at Natural Chimneys Regional Park one weekend. I felt like I'd abandoned that little nameless grey plush companion and a replacement bear was comforting but indeed not the same. Hopefully some other child found him and gave him a good home.")