I was saddened yesterday to hear about the death of Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are. I remember reading that book to our son many years ago–it was a favorite, especially if he’d had a bad day. Somehow, Sendak’s ability to acknowledge the reality of childrens’ bad days–and affirming their desire to run away–made it possible for them to do just that in their imagination…and come back to reality, knowing that life would be better.
Good authors do that. They help us inhabit worlds we wouldn’t be able to otherwise–whether those worlds are fictional ones someone has dreamed up or whether they are real worlds in historical periods long before our time. We can find ourselves empathizing with those characters…seeing ourselves in them…imagining what it might have been like to have been them…and then coming back safely to our own world and time, perhaps with a better understanding of ourselves and those we interact with.
I saw a study once that said that the best indicator of the success of a child in school was the number of books in the home. It wasn’t whether a child was read to or not–or even necessarily if the parents did a lot of reading. But if there were many books in the home, the child had a greater chance of success. Obviously, if there are many books in the house, someone is interested in reading!
I can believe that study. I grew up in a home with lots of books…where reading was an acceptable activity (even if it was after I was supposed to be in bed with the lights out–and I was reading under the covers with a flashlight). When my husband and I married, our library grew…and when our son was born, he had his own library in his bedroom–filled with his own books. Our daughter (whom we adopted when she was eight) had difficulties enjoying reading–but once she “clicked” with it, she also developed her own library.
I still read…a lot. Our local library is running a “6 in 12″ contest–encouraging patrons to read at least six books in the next twelve months. I looked at that…and laughed. I will easily read six books in a month! All kinds of books…autobiography, biography, science fiction, historical fiction, murder mysteries, “how-to” books… There are very few that I don’t like.
As a matter of fact, because I love books so much, I chose to share some of my choices on my blog–in my “Book of the Month” section. If you’re bored, browse in there and see if something sounds intriguing!
I can’t imagine a life without books. And so…I am grateful to authors who stimulate our imagination. RIP Maurice Sendak. I hope you and Max are enjoying a trip to where the wild things are!