Originally posted n October 2, 2014 at 5:05 AM
Are there books you read when you were very young to which you keep returning whether by reading the books themselves or revisting them in thought and daydream? If so, do you know what it is about the books that keep them resurfacing after so many years? One of my favorite pastimes is discussing old favorites and interesting oddities with friends and acquaintances. Having done this for many years I have rather come to the conclusion that it’s the images in the books which are so powerful to me; Whether it is six children summering on a private island (Swallows and Amazons—Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome) or a lone Native girl builds a pole hut surrounding it with a palisade of outward-curving whale bones (Island orf the Blue Dolphin Scott O’Dell) or Anna Lavinia seeing the sky within her aunt’s house which looks quite ordinary from without (Beyond the Paw Paw Trees Palmer Brown) there is something in these stories which creeps right into my dreams.
Before I’d read the Narnian stories I had a night dream about a talking horse with whom I was travelling across the desert. Though I knew that a mirage was a thing insubstantial and uncatchable, we glimpsed a wonderful sight of water and trees up ahead and managed to overtake it. Somehow I got a licorice ice cream cone and was happily eating that. My horse told me he wanted us to go on and I said as soon as I was done with my cone we’d be off but as with most good dreams, it ended before we could have further adventures. This was a mixture of imageries from Beyond the Paw Paw trees, a largely forgotten story about the conflict between dreams and practicality, and possibly a dream long had even at age 6 or so, to talk with animals.
Certain authors have stood the test of time, Beverly Cleary, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Newton Peck. Some are perhaps less well-known, Carolyn Sherwin Bailey author of Miss Hickory about the twig doll who lived in a corn cob house, Lucy Boston of the Green Knowe books and Carolyn Haywood of the Little Eddie stories. Though less well known, these and many others, were at one time, household names and fillers of much leisure time fantasy. I recently remarked to a friend that in researching a number of the writers of old favorite or well-remembered tales, I found that many of them appear to have lived quite lengthy lives and we hypothesized that to live a long time one should write children’s novels.
In a writers’ group I attended back in the ‘90s I was told by one woman that whenever I wrote dialogue for children or described children’s play, AI always got it just about perfect. I said I supposed that was because I’d never really grown up. Some of us pass at some time through a door, leaving childhood things behind. Once I started to do so but somehow got stuck or came back the other way and still love a great many of the things that attracted me when I was preliterate. I’ve not forgotten the images nor ceased to dream.