This week, we finished up the Little House (Laura) books on CD. We have been listening to them off and on for about three years. We would get a CD out of the library and listen to it and get another one and then repeat, mixing them up with lots of other stories. I wasn't sure if the later books were age appropriate for 5 and 6 year old girls, so we listened to a lot of Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek. I know, I know. How could they not be age appropriate? Orianna tends to be a worrier (can't imagine where she got that) and I wasn't sure how she would handle Mary's blindness, wolves on the lake, Mrs. Brewster and the knife, etc. Then, since we were having such a cold and snowy winter, I decided we needed to listen to The Long Winter. And one thing led to another and we had to listen to all the other ones. (Orianna asked alot of questions about blindness, the habitat range of wolves, and eventually moved on.)
Books I love are old friends to me. As an adult, I still reread kids books. Several of the books I read as a kid don't charm me as much as an adult. But then there are some that are as awesome now as they were then. Laura, Anne of Green Gables (actually ALL LM Montgomery books) Charlotte's Web, Ramona books, My Friend Flicka books, Betsy-Tacy books.... and so many more. They were all written ages ago, but all have something timeless about them. No matter how old they are, how far removed that world is from ours, they remain relate able. There is a simple complexity (I know, oxymoron) to them that makes them fun as a kid and still interesting as an adult. They all deal with real issues in life, but with a light enough hand that kids can love them.
And then, the Laura books are so....American. They overcome obstacles and near disasters, while steadily looking on the bright side, working hard, being adventurous, and never wavering from their principles. Which seems like the synopsis for the most boring book series on the planet. And yet, they aren't. There is enough contrariness and humor in them all (mostly Laura and Pa) to redeem them from being sanctimonious Pollyannas.
I know there are a lot of great stories out there being written in the here and now and we enjoy those too, but having them read books I read as a kid is like.... well, like introducing them to someone very special to me. And having them love those books makes my childhood self feel like a friend of theirs. As though we are kindred spirits--of the race of Jacob, as Anne would say.
Books are a part of me. I know it is silly. I know I have too many books. But it still remains that who I am today, to some extent, was shaped by the books of my childhood. Some made me think, some just entertained, but they all showed me a different world than my own. Taught me empathy, sparked my imagination, and let me escape, for a few hours, my own childish problems. Books are important. And I am so glad my kids love these stories.