Do you remember the first time you read that book? You know which one. The one that made you laugh when a joke was told. The one that made you cry, either when the hero won, or when the hero lost something dear. The one that, for a small amount of time, made you forget about everything else. Do you remember how it made you feel?
For many in my generation, that book is most likely Harry Potter. Filled with love (of all kinds), loss, and the pains of growing up, that book, even as an adult, still seems extremely relevant to this day. It was (and still is) easy to tumble into the wizarding world. The superb writing made me feel as if I were one of the characters and I felt everything they felt.
A good book will always do this to you. But for first books, it’s different. It has a sort of magical sheen to the whole thing. First books have this thing about them that, no matter how many flaws you see as you grow, will always be perfect in every way. I’m kind of hoping that this book will be The BFG for my daughter.
Children’s books carry subtle lessons with great sentences that should be carried throughout life. But do they?
We all remember the rules from when we were younger; don’t hit, play nice, sharing is caring, and the best rule of all, treat others how you want to be treated. But it’s extremely apparent that not all of us follow these rules now that we’re adults. Is it because we’ve become cynical? Maybe the surge of technological advances in the last 20 years is to be blamed? Or have we simply forgotten?
I’m sure there are many small factors that make up for the evilness of the adult life, but I’m choosing to see it as a simple case of forgetfulness. So I shall remind all of you by sharing what I’ve learned.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it.
“Giants isn’t eating each other either, the BFG said. Nor is giants killing each other. Giants is not very lovely, but they is not killing each other. Nor is crockadowndillies killing other crockadowndillies. Nor is pussy-cats killing pussy-cats.
‘They kill mice,’ Sophie said.
‘Ah, but they is not killing their own kind,’ the BFG said. ‘Human beans is the only animals that is killing their own kind.’
‘Don’t poisonous snakes kill each other?’ Sophie asked. She was searching desperately for another creature that behaved as badly as the human.
‘Even poisnowse snakes is never killing each other,’ the BFG said. ‘Nor is the most fearsome creatures like tigers and rhinostossterisses. None of them is ever killing their own kind. Has you ever thought about that?’
Sophie kept silent.
‘I is not understanding human beans at all,’ the BFG said.’ You is a human bean and you is saying it is grizzling and horrigust for giants to be eating human beans. Right or left?’
‘Right,’ Sophie said.
‘But human beans is squishing each other all the time,’ the BFG said. ‘They is shootling guns and going up in
aerioplanes to drop their bombs on each other’s heads every week. Human beans is always killing other human beans.’
He was right. Of course he was right and Sophie knew it. She was beginning to wonder whether humans were actually any better than giants. ‘Even so,’ she said, defending her own race, I’ think it’s rotten that those foul giants should go off every night to eat humans. Humans have never done them any harm.’
‘That is what the little piggy-wig is saying every day,’ the BFG answered. ‘He is saying, “I has never done any harm to the human bean so why should he be eating me?'”
‘Oh dear,’ Sophie said.
‘The human beans is making rules to suit themselves,’ the BFG went on. ‘But the rules they is making do not suit the little piggy-wiggies. Am I right or left?’
‘Right,’ Sophie said.
‘Giants is also making rules. Their rules is not suiting the human beans. Everybody is making his own rules to suit himself.”
― Roald Dahl, The BFG
I swear, that’s the last BFG quote I’ll put in here. I love this one. It’s lengthy, but it carries a powerful message. While I doubt that we’re the only creatures in the entire world that kills its own kind (the black widow spider anyone?), we are certainly the most enthusiastic about it. Now, I’m not going to say we should never go to war and people should never kill other people or anything else like that. It would be nice, but it’s unrealistic. You will never get everyone on the same page in any book. That’s just part of being human. So I want you to look at the quote on a more shallow level. Think, the comments section on Facebook. You’re a very lucky person if you’ve never seen the comments section and I envy you. It usually only takes about 30 seconds to find someone being just awful to someone else for no reason at all. Or at least no good reason. Why? Do these people get excited by purposely hurting someone else? Does it somehow improve their life? I would venture a no. What they probably do, is rant and rave, pounding on the keyboard until the keys go flying off, rant and rave, yelling at their spouse, their children, their parents, family, and friends, and have their entire day ruined because someone online had a slightly different opinion than them and they thought it was stupid. There’s something to be said about holding your tongue, and children’s books explore this one in full detail. In those stories, the effects of the silver tongue is felt immediately. They lose a friend. They make someone cry. They know that they have done something wrong and [usually] someone is there to tell them what it was that they did and how it affected the other person. Don’t lash out at people you may or may not know just because mom and dad aren’t there to tell you no.
Value the important things
by Shel Silverstein
Oh what do you do, poor Angus,
When hunger makes you cry?
“I fix myself an omelet, sir,
Of fluffy clouds and sky.”
Oh what do you wear, poor Angus,
When winds blow down the hills?
“I sew myself a warm cloak, sir,
Of hope and daffodils.”
Oh who do you love, poor Angus,
When Catherine’s left the moor?
“Ah, then, sir, then’s the only time
I feel I’m really poor.”
I love Shel Silverstein. I read Where the Sidewalk Ends to my daughter after we finished Matilda (which we read after we finished The BFG). Reading the poems is where I got the idea for this blog series from. I have a handful of favorites from this book. But because I lost my list, I had to go by memory, and I know for a fact, this was one of them. It’s simple, pretty, and I feel Angus is an older man with worldly wisdom. In a world of big house, big rings, and everyone wants to be a ‘Jones’, we tend to forget what really matters. In short, society has learned to love material objects more than each other. While Angus is obviously financially poor enough that he’s eating clouds and wearing hope, he still values the most important thing in his life above everything else, his dear Catherine. This is a lesson that is hard to avoid if you’re reading to a child. Which is good, because it’s probably the most forgotten lesson that is learned. Thankfully, minimalism seems to be catching hold and people are learning to let go of things to allow love and life to happen. Time will only tell if this will last. This poem reminds me of an ancient Greek mythology story that I read in a book once. The story is called Baucis and Philemon. Its main point is hospitality, but I see this message in there as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if this lesson is in a few of the Holy books as well.
I’ll be back next week for the third (and final) installment in this series. Probably with more Silverstein. Missed the first part? Click here to read it now.
Let me know in the comments section if there are lessons that you had forgotten from your childhood.
by Shel Silverstein
Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblins’ gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.