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The wonder of Wonderland: magical children’s books

Apparently a lot of people have this horrible cold, which feels like Covid or bronchitis. Phooey. 

Just writing, first, to gloat about Fox firing Tucker Carlson, one of the vilest human beings on the planet. I wonder if it’s coincidental that 60 Minutes on Sunday night did a segment about Ray Epps, a Trump supporter who protested peacefully at the Capital on Jan. 6 and for some reason, of all the thousands there, was targeted by Carlson, who made up a theory that Epps was an FBI plant and shrieked about it over and over on his program. Epps received so many death threats that he had to sell his ranch; he and his wife are in hiding, living in a trailer. He said Carlson destroyed his life. The next day, TC was fired. 

Anything for ratings, eh, Tucker? Rile up the beast, the base, plant insane theories, watch the clicks roll in. Best of all, his rants about Canada, the godless authoritarian state, its people under the thumb of socialist tyranny. 

May he rot. 

On the other hand, last night’s huge treat: Wonderland, on TVO, a series about the “golden age” of children’s literature, delving into the work and lives of British authors from that time, starting with Lewis Carroll, A.A. Milne, and Arthur Ransome of Swallows and Amazons. In subsequent weeks, my own favourite Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beatrix Potter, E. Nesbit, J.M. Barrie, Tolkein, Kenneth Graham of The Wind in the Willows, and more. 

The premise of the show is that almost all the famous books were written for a specific child or children, with the authors exploring or expiating their own often unhappy childhoods by inventing an idealized world of escape, a Wonderland, a Neverland. The saddest story is A.A. Milne’s, whose son Christopher Robin was infuriated by what he felt was his father’s expropriation of his childhood and his toys and refused to see him for years.

Made me rush upstairs to the section of my bookshelf for the books from my childhood.

So much deliciousness. There’s a whole section for Anne Frank. 

A 1954 edition given by my British grandparents when I was seven

“Ootook, Eskimo Girl” was sent by my father in 1958 from Halifax (Hillavax Novascocha) to England, where my mother, brother, and I were living. I guess he was preparing me for my return to the cold of Canada. I was seven. At the bottom, my homemade library card. 

My mother’s book from 1935, awarded as a prize. Beautiful Joe is a dog who’s treated cruelly; my mother couldn’t even mention this book without crying.

Mum was thirteen.

This one makes me laugh – what my father thought a nine-year-old would enjoy for her birthday. I’ve never read it. 

Judy Blume is having a moment. I’m sorry I was too old for her books, as I would have benefitted from learning what she was telling. 

The magical books of childhood stay with us forever. I hope the children of today, including my own grandsons who are not big readers, have their own wonderlands, their own private worlds, to have and to hold.

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6 Responses to “The wonder of Wonderland: magical children’s books”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I was in the Salvation Army thrift store today and bought a whole lot of children's books to supplement what we have here for visiting grandchildren. And how lovely to find titles I loved as a child or my own children loved but which went missing (maybe to their adult homes?). The Borrowers, The Cricket in Times Square, Stuart Little, Julie of the Wolves…
    Theresa

    • beth says:

      Wonderful! The Borrowers – how I loved that book back when. Read a bit to Eli, but it's so very English and there were many words he didn't understand, I had to keep paraphrasing and moving ahead. But the world of tiny people with their inventive furniture … Two of the others you mention, I don't know. More reading to do.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Kudos to Trucker’s firing! You had a fabulous collection of books young lady! Thank you. For sharing! It’s fun to re-read our children’s books. I’m diving into Anne of Green Gables – my late mother’s obsession – the play was an annual PEI trip for her – it just never gets old.

    • beth says:

      The best children's book are for adults as well as for kids. Every time I read the last paragraph of Charlotte's Web, I break down in sobs. The last time, my grandson stared at me – it's about a SPIDER, Glamma! But what a spider.

  3. Juliet in Paris says:

    Those wonderful, magical books that you presented? Some of them will be banned from schools and public libraries by the Christian right-wingers (or parts censored or re-written), and most of them will never be read by kids today. Didn't you notice? Kids don't read books anymore.

    • beth says:

      Juliet, who would have predicted that records would be hot again? But they are. Typewriters are popular. I have 100% faith in the power of books, that don't need power or batteries or anything but eyeballs.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

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Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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