My favorite book currently is The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. If you go and look it up, you will quickly discover that it is, in fact, a picture book. Now you may be wondering why the favorite book of a 21-year-old lit major is a simple children’s story with more color and images than words, when there are so many other important works out there to be read.
Allow me to explain. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is stunning.
That’s it. Sure, this book also teaches some great lessons. It encourages children to read, portrays the importance of books, and teaches that every tale is worth being told. All of which is important. But if I’m honest, those lessons aren’t why I love it. I love this picture book because every time I read it, a lump forms in my throat. The words and images warm me to the core and make me smile. I resonate with every line and find myself wishing I were in a library of animate books, bandaging their scrapes and bruises and tucking them into bed.
The magic of children’s literature is that the tales they tell can be as meaningful to an adult audience as they are to a young one.
Adult literature is often harsh, so tinted by the dim realities of life that it fades into gray. Children’s literature, on the other hand, is vibrant. Cheerful in ways that adult literature usually isn’t able to accomplish. And what we seem to forget in our serious-minded adult years is the importance of going back to childhood from time to time and rediscovering the color.
My sister is a teacher, and she told me that right now, there is a push to take colors out of the classroom, because they are overstimulating to kids. We are slowly turning schools into boxes–white-walled, silent boxes–where everyone thinks and acts the same way. We are slowly forgetting that greatness comes from the messiest parts of our lives, from thinking outside the box, trying new things, and testing the limits of what we know.
Children need to be kids, to color outside the lines, to laugh, to feel emotions, maybe a little too strongly. They need their time enjoying the innocent joys of running barefoot in the grass and believing that there are fairies in the garden and laughing just for the sake of hearing the happiness aloud. Kids need color. And sometimes, adults need it too.
No matter how old we get, we need children’s stories and fairy-tales to remind us that life is beautiful. So even though I am in college, I buy picture books for myself from time to time. I gather up groups of friends and we read aloud to each other. We sit curled on blankets to let ourselves forget for a moment life’s stress and remember for a moment life’s wonder.
What about you? If you had to name one children’s story that never fails to make you smile, what would it be? (Take some time today to read it.)