Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Feeling Like a Kid (copy)

Feeling Like a Kid: Childhood and Children’s Literature by Jerry Griswold is more than a professional development book; it is inspiration. I picked it up for the job, but just fell in love with Griswold’s ideas. In a nutshell, he would like for us to revisit the classics with our adult eye, but child’s heart.

The opening quote by Italo Calvino says it all:

There should therefore be a time in adult life devoted to revisiting the most important books of our youth. Even if the books have remained the same, …we have most certainly changed, and our encounter with them will be a new

I did that a couple of years ago when I revisited Old Yeller by Fred Gipson. I totally missed some important issues such as the downhill slide of the dog when I read it in my youth. Actually, the book was a much harder read as an adult, too.

Author Griswold would like for us to remember what it was like to be young. He breaks down the book into five different themes: snugness, scariness, smallness, lightness, and aliveness. In “Snugness” he takes a few minutes to remind us how important making tents out of a table and chairs are to youngsters. My favorite place to feel snug was inside a clothes rack at the local K-Mart. I’d wiggle into the middle and play quietly while my mom searched frantically.

Other than the professional nature, I also like this book because it leads to more books. His whole conversation on snugness revolves around fictional children who hide or sleep in snug places within the following books: The Wind in the Willows, Heidi, The Secret Garden, and the stories of Beatrix Potter.

In the “Scariness” chapter, the reader is reminded about those things that make one jump, but then laugh afterwards. Griswold cites the game of “Boo” as an example. Interesting enough, the most famous children’s book in the world is a German favorite titled, Struwwelpeter. Have you heard of it? Me neither. Apparently, parents all over Europe have used this book full of cautionary tales to set their children straight. A particularly gruesome story involves a tailor who cuts off thumbs of kids who suck them.

If you would like to get in touch with your inner child you needn’t wait to read Feeling Like a Kid. Go ahead and get started by reading a Christmas classic such as Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Clement Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas to yourself or any lucky child visiting this holiday season.
Note: Return trip to my childhood Number 5 Armchair Travelers Reading Challenge