“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
Sometimes, when a child asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, you try to fake it. You sort of bumble along in your superior grown-up-ness, making it up as you go, trying to convince the child that you know what you’re talking about (just like at the office) but the child sees straight through you.
Like, straight through. They look at you with those big clear eyes, a slight crease between their eyebrows, silently saying, ‘dude, give it up, you ain’t fooling nobody’.
Children might not know how to read a clock properly, how to drive a car or why it’s not wise to put a spoonful of icing sugar into your mouth, but they do know what really matters in life.
Children know that having an adventurous spirit and compassionate heart, loving and being loved in return, is all there really is to life. These five wonderful children’s writers know it too.
I had to start the countdown with my own personal favourite, Roald Dahl’s magical masterpiece, Matilda. Cleverly encouraging childhood literacy by giving bookworm Matilda super-powers, Roald Dahl gave us a world where one little girl could outsmart every single one of the idiotic adults around her. Knowledge is power, my friends.
The overall message of J.M. Barrie’s 1911 book about a little boy who could fly is that you must always believe in yourself, life should be an awfully big adventure and, most importantly, you must never, ever, ever grow up. Check, check and CHECK.
Dr Seuss’s storytelling followed no rules, only a dedication to creating surreal situations in fantastical lands using deliciously nonsensical rhymes. Dr Seuss imparted many great life lessons in his books but his meditation on freedom and exploration could be solely responsible for the rise of the dreadlocked backpacker.
Perhaps it’s his habit of wearing a t-shirt that’s too small and no pants, his confession that he is a bear of ‘very little brain’, or just the result of his unchecked honey-eating habit, but there’s a common misconception that Winnie the Pooh is not too bright.
Read a few of A.A. Milne’s books though and you’ll soon fall in love with Pooh Bear’s zen mental attitude and see his humble observations about life in the forest are laced with worldly-wisdom.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was famously written as a gift to a beloved child, originally subtitled, ‘A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer’s Day’. Lewis Carroll knew way back in 1864 that there’s nothing so great about being ordinary and all the best people are a little bit strange.