Children’s Book Tuesday :: The Wonder Years

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It’s 9.30pm. I’m working. Husband is reading. Our youngest is fast asleep. From the next room, come the fast and furious mutters of a child not yet asleep. The intonation rises and falls. There are accents and a range of voices. There is possibly accompanying actions. Soon, the noises will cease.

Tomorrow, when I wake at 7.30am, I will hear them again. The mutters. The voices. The dramatic intonation.

This is my six-year-old ‘Talking Harry’. And no, it isn’t illness. Though possibly it could be leaning towards obsessive. Talking Harry begins early, and carries on through the day. Harry was talked all through Venice. He’s talked while dressing. She disappears into her room, or to the end of the play park to Talk Harry many many times a day.

Thankfully, she isn’t in formal school yet. She has extra months to dream and talk her stories in fast and furious whispers.

Reading Harry Potter each night to her, I too am drawn into the intricate and incredibly believable world J.K. Rowling has created. But like most, I know it’s not real.

For my daughter though, wizards exist, and she is definitely going to Hogwarts when she is eleven {sorry, Mum}. She is Scarlett Webb, one of Harry’s best friends, and her characteristics and actions alternate slightly as we read various passages and come across new characters.

She’s at the magical and wonderful point where real is fantasy and fantasy is real and you can so convincingly become lost in the middle.

At her age, I was also lost in my magical {real} world, at the end of our paddock in Inverell. I’d sit in the old olive tree, talking to my friends – the fairy, the family of bears, the magpie. We’d talk about the mean old king who controlled village finances, who lived one tree up. Why do I remember this so clearly? Because it was so real. And I spent so much time there.

I recently listened to this wonderful podcast from children’s author Mac Barnett, about how a good book will open a secret door to another world. He talks about the wonderful crossover between reality and fiction, and about how much humans love that space. We know it’s not real, yet we like going there, over and over. Children get to that space so much easier and faster than adults.

He mentions lots of scenarios. But I had to keep listening to Neko’s phone messages for his pet whale.

When kids buy a copy of Mac’s book, Billy Twitters and the Blue Whale Problem, they get a coupon to order their own whale. Heaps of kids write in, with various degrees of skepticism. In reply, they get a letter from a legal firm in Norway, explaining that unfortunately, due to issues with customs, their whale has been held up, but they can leave a message for their whale if they call a particular phone number. Many of these children, who are either curious or have completely bought into the fiction {or both}, call the number and leave a message.

Neko leaves message after message for his blue whale. His messages are so delightful and genuine, it makes me completely certain writing for children is what I need to be doing. Neko believes in his whale. For years. In the same way that Elka believes in Scarlett Webb and Harry.

In our family, we talk a lot about science, maths, philosophy, religion. My kids ask all sorts of questions, and we seek to answer them as honestly as possible. But the credibility of the wizard world is never put to question. It is sacred, and no further explanation is necessary.

Like Neko, I held onto my fantasy world for many years. Although I still believe in some things, to some extent, those truly magical wonder years had a definite point of demise, when I finally accepted that Santa wasn’t real. I had been holding onto my hope for months, long after I’d realised it was Mum’s handwriting on Santa’s cards; long after I wrote to Santa, asking for an elf as proof of existence, and received a little teddy instead.

At last, logic and credibility won out. I asked Dad in the car on the way to school, ‘Dad, tell me straight. Is Santa real or not real?’

‘He’s as real as you want him to be,’ he’d said.

And I cried into my school bag, as my attachment to all things fictional started to ebb away. {Dad had to follow me into class, because I’d forgotten my lunch money in my despair.}

It’s possible my six-year-old will only have one vivid memory of living in Europe for a year, and that is Harry Potter. But gee, will she remember that. She’ll remember the way she imagines Hogwarts. She’ll smell the corridors. She’ll remember how she feels as she intercepts Voldemort to protect Harry.

Because these are the wonder years.

Link your children’s book posts below for Children’s Book Tuesday! I will leave this link open, so feel free to link up later if you don’t have anything ready right now. Any and all posts about children’s books are welcome.

  • And what better place to let her imagination carry her away!! This is just beautiful. She has such an active imagination filled with endless stories. She’s sure to be a writer one day just like you x #teamIBOT

  • Nooks so do open doors to secret worlds. I was more caught up the worlds that Enid Blyton created when I was a child, but I believed in fairies as truly as I believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, I look forward to reading Harry Potter to my little girl, though I have never read it before. I am studying Children’s Literature next trimester at uni, I can’t wait. I have a child’s book in my head. One day, one day x

  • How gorgeous! I remember believing what I was reading being true as a child, a lovely way to stimulate the imagination. I only have 2 readers out of our 5 and I love to watch as they get swept up in the magic that is a book. xx

  • There’s nothing better than losing yourself in another world and letting your imagination run free. Kids do this so well, and we should try and remember too as adults. And of course wizards are real!

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