Once upon a time I was having a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad day. People were mad at me, I was mad at myself, and I was going crazy trying to decide what I was going to do with my life. Yup… one of those. So bad that I went for a walk in the middle of a New York snowstorm, but it was so bitterly cold that I ducked into a bookstore to get warm.
I walked past the well-intentioned self-help books, the adult fiction shelves with gorgeously written, epically complicated stories about other people’s pain and misery, and then somehow, found myself in the children’s section.
I hadn't been in that part of a bookstore or library for at least a decade.
The first thing I saw was a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth. It made me smile. I picked it up, but kept wandering. Anne of Green Gables was staring at me from a display, so I grabbed that too. A Wrinkle in Time, Harriet the Spy, and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler also made the pile… and then, a half hour later, I had at least twenty old friends stacked around me on the floor where I was sitting between the short kiddie shelves. I thumbed through, one after the other, hearing what they had to say. Each book spoke to my true self; the part of me that knew things - knew better. This was partially because of the formative time we had spent together, and also because every single one of them had a soul-searing, optimistic wisdom that still, in my now adult brain, rang clear and true.
I remembered who I was, and knew what I had to do, because they said the most amazing things:
“They didn’t think I was what they wanted,” Anne Shirley reminded me. “Someone sent me by mistake. But mistakes are how great stories begin.”
“Being you - not being like anyone else - is powerful,” Meg and Charles Wallace insisted. “You are made of stardust and the world is full of magic. Big adventures can begin on a dark and stormy night.”
“Sometimes it looks to other people like you are missing or lost, when really, you are finding yourself,” Claudia Kincaid said wisely.
“You can do anything, as long as you don’t know it’s impossible,” Milo whispered.
“No more nonsense.” Ole Golly told me.
I write for the young and young at heart because I felt at home there, between bookshelves, between pages, between worlds, and most importantly, closer to Truth. I believe that the simplicity and clarity of that 'Emperor’s New Clothes' type of honesty speaks to all of us - to all of our higher selves - at every age.
I’d love to know… What are your favorite, most delicious wisdom bits from children’s lit?
Please comment and share so we can remind and inspire one another by passing forward the truth zingers from our favorite kindred-spirit characters in kids books! Direct Quotes, lessons you learned… all of it!