I don't know if I ever read this as a child or not, but the story was very familiar having seen the movie at least half a dozen times. This is an exceI don't know if I ever read this as a child or not, but the story was very familiar having seen the movie at least half a dozen times. This is an excellent choice as far as a read-aloud novel for kids. The characters are struggling to learn and grow, and the lessons they learn are good ones. For example:
"One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts--just mere thoughts--are as powerful as electric batteries--as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live."
It's definitely very Western-centric (India is depicted as a sort of fantasy world full of rajahs) and glosses over the issue of poverty, but the magic of having a secret place is fun, and the book promotes being healthy and active and a love of nature and the outdoors.
I also like that the children are treated equivalently - their roles and personalities in the story are not particularly impacted by their gender. Mary is just as smart and capable of wild exercise as Colin and Dickon.
I've spent nearly 9 months slowly soaking in these stories at the rate of just under 1 per day. I read them all in English and many in German, and hadI've spent nearly 9 months slowly soaking in these stories at the rate of just under 1 per day. I read them all in English and many in German, and had an excellent time doing it! It's an amazing collection, and impressive and important work that the Grimm brothers did to gather and write down many of the the traditional stories that may have otherwise been lost.
Fairy tales like this are, it seems to me, meant to be read with a child-like spirit: in small bites and with joy at the repetition of themes and lessons learned. Part of the joy of reading and hearing stories as a child is that repetition and predictability that drives us all crazy in adult fiction, because there is excitement and anticipation in knowing what's coming and increased self-worth in being right. The repetition also hammers home lessons like being kind, listening to elders and wise folks, having courage, and keeping promises. It also gives us a basic framework for how stories function and fantastical building blocks for our imaginations to play with and extend.
These stories have traditional values when it comes to gender, class, and when race manages to even enter the picture, and I accept them that way, as part of the time they come from. They are also violent (but not overly gruesome in describing violence) and do not always resolve situations in a way that seems fair to us today. That said, they are imaginative, historically significant, and full of courageous and strong young people, some of whom even happen to be female.
Themes: fairy tales, tradition, children, life lessons, magic, fate, punishment and reward, love, family, humor, repetition, wisdom, timeless, adventure...more
It was so much fun to read this again, even as an adult. I really enjoyed it when I was young, and it's easy to see why. The poetry (particularly theIt was so much fun to read this again, even as an adult. I really enjoyed it when I was young, and it's easy to see why. The poetry (particularly the Jabberwocky and The Walrus and the Carpenter) is such fun, and the silly, whimsical word play and twisting of logic are imaginative and exactly the right sort of thought-provoking for kids.
My favorite part in the first book is Alice's ridiculous conversation with the Mock Turtle. A sample:
'They were obliged to have him with them,' the Mock Turtle said: 'no wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.'
'Wouldn't it really?' said Alice in a tone of great surprise.
'Of course not,' said the Mock Turtle: 'why, if a fish came to ME, and told me he was going a journey, I should say "With what porpoise?" 'Don't you mean "purpose"?' said Alice.
In the second book, besides the two poems named above, my favorite part is Alice's conversation with Humpty Dumpty. He explains many words to her (including the ones in Jabberwocky) and gets her mind twisted in knots with his silliness:
"Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they're the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'
'Would you tell me, please,' said Alice 'what that means?'
'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'
'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone."
I look forward to revisiting this again when I have young children. What Carroll does so well is lift up and glorify the witty and imaginative ways that children think about words and logic as they grow and learn. He gives credence to what seems silly and absurd, and offers the puns, riddles, jokes, and even nonsense that children love and adults tend to groan about. He refrains from preaching or infantilizing, and an authentic sense of child-like wonder at the world pervades the book.