I have decided to retrace my love of reading in an attempt to renew the bonds that captivated me from an early age. I think this journey is necessary to rebuild my trust in fictional worlds and to re-engage with the pure joy of reading. I started to think back on the first books, the earliest memories of books. What strikes me of these early memories is the community of reading. Books were read aloud by parents and by myself to younger siblings. It was an oral tradition, full of ridiculous voices and imaginary worlds. Inevitably, one or the other of us would fall in love with a particular way of reading a certain character. This would result in an insistence followed quickly by the snatching of books and the smacking of faces should any reader deviate from this beloved expectation. This was the golden age of thickly bound golden books which served as formidable weapons against those who would misread them. This insistence demonstrates the strong desire, even from an early age, to shape for ourselves these imaginary worlds.
There were always firm, standing favorites. I remember a strong preference for rhyming verses and absolute silliness. Even to this day these holdover into my adulthood. The drawer full of Minion underpants can attest to this fact. For this reason Dr Seuss loomed large over my childhood. As did such titles as Stand Back Said the Elephant, I’m Going to Sneeze. I can distinctly remember the lines from this rhyming drama. “I don’t suppose you could hold your nose or wait awhile asked the crocodile with a sad little smile.” The crocodile was invariably read in a drawling sophisticated voice. Emphasis strong on the “a-hhhwile”.
I love the ambiguity in stories that allows a story to take shape in a reader’s head. A story that hints at the details only to be colored in by or own experience and expectations. This is a monumental task for a children’s book author since the visual experiences are largely already established. But if there was one book that did this better than the others it is Harold and The Purple Crayon. This was the sort of story that put the reader at the helm of the adventure, suggesting and captivating but altogether ready for reader input. So, in sticking with the faithfulness of childhood memories, I summoned my biggest puppy dog eyes and asked my husband to buy me a copy of Harold. My eyes were effectively puppy enough to net me an iced coffee and the Barnes and Noble special deal for a $7.99 copy of What To Do With A Problem with the purchase of any childrens’ book.
When we got home I curled up on the floor and read them both aloud. Harold did not fail to disappoint. And What To Do With A Problem showed me that I am doing the exact right thing by tackling my reading problem…
“When I got face to face with it, I discovered something. My problem wasn’t what I thought it was. I discovered it had something beautiful inside. My problem held an opportunity! It was an opportunity for me to learn and grow. To be brave. To do something.”