Sunday 29 November 2020

Children's books on a brilliant morning...

I’ve got a steaming cup of chai and a slice of freshly baked Banana Bread to keep me company on this brilliantly sunny, mild morning.  I plan to take full advantage of the gorgeous day before the rain and snow hit us in the next few days.  But first, I have two children’s books to tell you about.

I decided to read as many of the short juvenile chapter books from my shelf upstairs as I could this past week, and was disappointed to have only finished two, but they were both wonderful books.  The first was Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.  This book was published in 1975, and I was a child at that time, so how was it that I’d never heard of it until I started working in my current job?  This novel focuses on the Tuck family, mother, father and two sons, who inadvertently disrupt the life of ten-year-old Winnie Foster, whose family own the woods in the near distance from the Tuck home.  They come across her one morning as she sits alone in the woods contemplating running away, and because she witnesses their conversation, they kidnap her in order to explain their situation.  What they reveal is that they’ve discovered a spring in these woods whose water, if drunk, stops you from aging beyond that moment.  But immortality is not all it’s cracked up to be, and the Tuck family want to warn Winnie not to tell anyone about this spring and also not to drink from it.  What ensues is a kidnapping, a swindle and a murder that is as gripping as I’ve ever encountered in a children’s book.  This story holds more meaning and lessons than is conceivable for such a short novel, and I would highly recommend it to just about anyone.

I also read The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.  This novel, published in 1977, is also one I don’t recall ever hearing about until recently.  This makes me wonder what I was reading when I was young… I was reading all the time, but these two books (and who knows how many others!) seemed to have escaped my notice.  Anyway, this book is about the bonds of friendship and the ways we deal with loss.  Jesse Aarons wants to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade.  Over the summer, he practices every morning before doing his chores on the family farm.  His two older sisters seem to have their mother wrapped around their little fingers, and his younger sisters don’t have to do anything around the house since they are so young, so the bulk of the chores, and their mother’s wrath, fall on Jess’s shoulders.  He is a shy, artistic boy who must hide his talents from his parents and his fellow classmates for fear of being shamed or ridiculed.  When the Burke family move into the ramshackled home down the road from Jess, he dismisses them outright, as no one ever stays long in that house.  But then he meets Leslie Burke, who is in his class and ends up being the fastest runner in their grade.  Jess’s whole being resists Leslie’s overtures of friendship, but he eventually breaks down and they form an unlikely twosome, a bond that is sometimes the only thing that keeps Jess going.  They create the magical kingdom of Terabithia in the forest behind their farms, and of course they are the king and queen of the kingdom.  Time passes and their friendship deepens.  One day, when Jess is distracted by an offer that feeds his own needs, tragedy strikes and he is plunged into grief and also feelings of guilt.  He eventually overcomes the deepest pangs of his grief and begins to use his newfound strengths to become a better, kinder, even braver person.  This novel had me in tears by the end, and, like Tuck Everlasting, I would highly recommend this slightly longer children’s novel to anyone who enjoys a coming-of-age story that rings true.

That’s all for today.  Time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.

Bye for now…

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