I realized something today as I finished reading Betty MacDonald’s Nancy and Plum, a book I chose to read over Marcel Proust’s ‘Days of Reading’, Paulo Coelho’s Aleph, Margaret George’s ‘Helen of Troy’, Perumal Murugan’s ‘Poonachi’ and Wodehouse’s ‘Piccadilly Jim’, all wonderful books I’ve had on my TBR pile for months but could never really find the time to read. I realized that while I was reading Nancy and Plum, I was home. That I could read all the books from all the genres but still come back to children’s books when going through a rough patch in life. It’s like you know when you want to travel the world and you do, you go places, you have a splendid time, you learn a lot through your travels and yet there comes a point where you are tired and you want to go home. You miss home. You miss your family. You miss your bed. You miss your evening tea. So let’s just say, reading Nancy and plum felt like I was Bilbo Baggins coming back to Bag End after his long audacious journey with the dwarves.
I was home after a long, long time.
There is something about difficult times that sends me scurrying back towards the comfort of Children’s books. The memory of Sara Crewe alone in her attic, from Burnett’s ‘A little Princess’ can get me through the darkest of nights. Then there’s David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Mary Lennox, Liesel Meminger, Anne Shirley and so many more, all of whom, at some point or the other have helped me get through the bad days of my life.
One might wonder why Children’s books?
After all there are a lot of inspiring books meant for adults out there and God knows there’s no dearth of self-help books in the market. So why children’s books?
Honestly, I don’t know. Except that I love going back to being a twelve year old who is full of hope and life in spite of life’s troubles. I still am full of hope and life, I know every reader is. But we all have Jonah days and sometimes you really have to look hard to spot that one silver lining. So every time I read a children’s book, I know it in my heart that sooner or later everything will be alright and that I am going to be okay in spite of my trials.
There is something about children fighting their way to good times in these novels that inspires me to go on too. As adults, it is expected from us to face challenges head on, but for kids in these books… it is way more difficult and yet they do it with such grace and beauty that most adults in their place would fail to. Their ability to trust life, to dream bigger and to love life regardless of the circumstances they are in is worthy of admiration, isn’t it?
And you know, you cannot read a children’s book and still despair. It goes against the entire essence of the ritual of reading a children’s book. To despair is to turn your back on every children’s book you have ever read and who wants to do that? Not me.
You know a few years ago, a dear friend and I were having a conversation about books and she told me she was reading ‘Crime and Punishment’ and I said, ‘but you were reading the same book the last time we talked. What’s taking so long?’ (note : I had never read Dostoevsky in my entire life so I had no idea) and she said I wouldn’t know since I read a lot of children’s literature.
I was offended. Mortified even.
Of course she was pulling my leg but it hurt nonetheless. Firstly because I read a lot lot lot of stuff other than kids’ books. And secondly because I felt like I was being looked down upon because I was 21 and I still read kids’ books.
Today I am 25 and I still read kids’ books everytime I have to look hard to find that one silver lining in the sky. The only difference is today I don’t really care if somebody’s going to judge me for the books I read. Because honestly, I’d be 50 someday and I’d still come reread Roald Dahl at the end of the day, because for me, as I said earlier, it is like coming home. And who doesn’t like the comfort of home? ☺️