Monday, August 07, 2006

Home for Dinner

An alert reader sent me this profile of Professor Seth Lerer from Stanford Magazine. I enjoyed Lerer's take on Wild Things, Robert McCloskey, Wind in the Willows, Harry P. and other themes from children's literature.

J.K. Rowling’s novels tap into another mainstay of kids’ books, says Lerer: the fantasy that unlike adults—whom children’s authors often depict as dull, rule-bound or inept—every child is special, with gifts and talents waiting to be recognized. “All children believe they’re wizards and their parents are ‘muggles.’  ”

Muggles may find it hard to imagine that children get all this out of stories, but Lerer believes some do. “Why do kids re-read books once they know the plot?” When his son was 10, he says, the boy again and again read Louis Sachar’s Holes, about a strange camp in which children must spend their days digging holes in search of who-knows-what. Holes, Lerer says, shows that “being a child is like being in prison,” an idea that speaks to any kid who feels trapped in the role of student or son or daughter. But there’s a treasure to be found, which offers escape.

Books do give kids the chance to stretch their legs and imagine another life or a state of being from the safety of their room or favorite reading chair. This important aspect of children's books is one that I have come to appreciate and revere more and more as an adult.

As Seth puts it: “I want to go where the wild things are, but I also want to be home for dinner.” Children’s books let kids have it both ways.

Quick read and a nice piece!

1 comment:

Chris Barton said...

What a find, Camille -- thanks for sharing this article with the rest of us.

Does Leonard Marcus know that Prof. Lerer is working his turf?