Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why You Should Read this Book at Age 8 and 50

I recently read The Wind in the Willows, a story I have not encountered since it was read aloud to me as a child, and I will join the many admirers who say that this is a book that should be read at age 8 and 50... and perhaps a few times in between. Through the homely and lovable characters of Mole, Water Rat, Badger, and Mr. Toad, Kenneth Graham (who was Scottish by the way) illuminates simple pleasures and simple challenges that adults far too often complicate. Never underestimate the enjoyment of a warm fire over a shared beer or the true kindness of a friend, and beware the destructive power of your own vanity and misguided boasts. These are merely some of the essential lessons that we much teach children and that we must re-learn ourselves from time to time. 

But in case you don't take my word for it, this tale has inspired everyone from the author of Winnie the Pooh to Pink Floyd. Theodore Roosevelt wrote to the author heartily acknowledging his pleasure in his reading and re-reading the tale. A.A. Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh) wrote an introduction in which he describes the book as "...a test of character. We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us." He goes on to comment, "It is a Household Book; a book which everybody in the household loves, and quotes continually; a book which is read aloud to every new guest and is regarded as the touchstone of his worth."

Our society has done us great harm in telling us that books about animals are for children only. After all, C.S. Lewis reminds us that "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest!" I like to think that this is one of the books that he had in mind when he so famously stated, "No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally - and often far more - worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."

1 comment:

  1. Love this review! So insightful and beautifully written :) I just might need to borrow that book!