At Book Riot, a nice post from Laura Sackton: In praise of childhood favorites that have lost their magic
I recently reread A Wrinkle in Time, one of the most beloved books from my childhood. I’d just given the graphic novel version to my five-year-old nephew, who loved it, and with the recent movie, the book has been on my mind. I decided to listen to it on audio, one of my favorite ways to reread books.
The audiobook is excellent. I enjoyed falling back into a world that I loved so much as a kid. I wasn’t disappointed by it, I didn’t dislike it, and I didn’t find it troubling or problematic like some other childhood favorites I’ve revisited. It was perfectly good. But it didn’t make me feel much. The magic was gone…. at first, this made me sad. I craved that feeling of immersion I’d had when I was a kid. I wanted A Winkle in Time to be what it had always been for me. …
Maybe these books don’t lose their magic because they’re not good enough, but because their magic is specific to the experience of childhood. Maybe there’s something in these books that speaks to the open curiosity of children, to the feeling of being a small human in a big world, or a young person with a brain still discovering itself. Maybe the very best books from our childhoods—the ones that shaped us, the ones that made us fall in love with reading and taught us how strong we were and showed us the dizzying array of possibilities in the universe—simply have a magic that adults can’t understand.
A wonderful point. Children’s books are meant for children (or should be). It’s not necessary for adults to love them (though they may).
I still find some of my childhood books touching and lovely — A Little Princess, say, and Little Women. I haven’t tried one of the wonderful E Nesbit stories, such as The Phoenix and the Carpet, for a very long time, so I’m not sure how that would work for me these days. I will add that I no longer care very much for A Wrinkle in Time, though I might eventually see the movie. I think every now and then of re-reading the Narnia chronicles. I wonder how those would strike me now?
This reminds me of a hilarious recent thread on Twitter, by Ursula Vernon, re-reading and commenting on Swiss Family Robinson — which I loved as a kid (so did she). Not the sort of book that is likely to stand up to a re-read, I gather. I had completely forgotten some of the details that catch Vernon’s sardonic eye. You really must click through and read that thread — especially if you remember Swiss Family Robinson.