Second Star to the Right

. . . And straight on till morning.

Yesterday I was asked what my siblings and I did to entertain ourselves as children.  We didn't have money or a television growing up, so naturally we played outdoors.  This got me thinking about how children see the world differently than adults.  It is the entire premise behind the story of Peter Pan.  If Peter became an adult, he would be incapable of returning to Neverland. He would forget how to use his imagination like a child. 

The details of our childhood games are a bit blurry to me now.  One thing I distinctly recall: it was real to us.  A fallen tree was a ship caught in a storm.  A bamboo forest was a jungle.  A clearing overrun with clay, pebbles and broken glass was a town in the Wild West.  We looked at a log lying above a creek, and we saw a drawbridge extending across a moat.  We were entertained by our imaginations alone.

And also, I think - by the books we read.

Perhaps we wouldn't have imagined our games quite so well if we weren't influenced by children's literature.  When I recall the books we read as kids, I am struck by that same sense of unexplainable reality.  Our books were alive to us.  As difficult as this is to understand from an adult's perspective, it was a simple leap for us to make as children.  In fact, it wasn't even a leap.  It just happened.  And, in turn, it influenced our play.

Several books in particular came to mind, not the least of which were those that fall into the category of Animal Books.  These were our favorites.

It began with Beatrix Potter.  Her short stories about Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Little Pig Robinson, Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Jemima PuddleDuck, and Johnny Town-Mouse, to name a few, led us to the obvious conclusion that animals are quite capable of speech.  

I recently watched the movie entitled Miss Potter, about Beatrix Potter's life, and was happy to find that her illustrations actually moved once painted - just as we saw them as children.  

(Post-It-Note: I must say, I devoted far too much time to that movie for the next-to-main character to die in the end.  I should've saved myself the disappointment by looking Potter up in Wikipedia before I pressed Play.  Not to mention her publisher is pictured on the dvd cover as clean-shaven, but has a handle-bar  mustache in the movie itself.  This proved to be a huge distraction.)

Next we loved The Wind in the Willows.  We laughed uncontrollably at Mole's confusion, Mr. Toad's antics, and Badger's dry sense of humor.  Of course, Rat was our unanimous favorite, with his care-free, happy-go-lucky life on the river.  (Speaking of rats, we were also quite fond of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.)  Kenneth Grahame gave us a glimpse of animals in the wild - and is, by default, at least partially responsible for all the wild "pets" we brought home.

And then of course there was Watership Down.  We still refer to tractors as Hrududus.  I'm actually reading this one out loud to Isaac right now.  It's slow going because he's only three and subsequently prefers coloring books with cars in them - but we've got to start somewhere, right?

Wouldn't want him to miss out on Neverland, after all.

Related Blog Posts:  How Do You Get Your Kids to Embrace Summer Reading? by Elizabeth Williams Bushey


  1. I just loved Beatrix Potter...so much. I actually checked out a book by her last semester just for old times sake :)

  2. Great post! I have been thinking about how we used our imagination as children. I find myself frustrated with how soon so many allow the world to put an end to that. It is weighing heavily on my mind and on its way to becoming a project. I have some ideas brewing. So, I am calling all like-minded thinkers...

  3. This is so true. Most of my childhood was an endless string of make believe, sometimes it seems like I never stopped for reality (who wants it anyway? ;P ) I definitely get what you mean about books seeming very alive. Our mom read Watership Down for the first time when I was about five or six and I still remember clearly being completely enthralled. I had no idea what was going on half the time, but it was still as though I could see it happening.

    Darn cluttered adult brain. It does seem to get in the way of a human's best creativity. ;)

  4. I love this post!

    I actually still feel this way about books!

    And I agree about the movie Miss Potter. I didn't notice the mustache situation, but those things bother me! They pay people to keep up the continuity! Looks like you should be getting paid!

    The secret of NIMH was one of my favorite movies growing up. I didn't read the book until a few years ago, but it was just as good as an adult.

  5. You are hilarious! I love that the handlebar mustache was a distraction for you.



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