We read this book today.
I wasn’t going to read books by Roald Dahl to Elijah until he was in school. Lots of themes in these books are pretty dark, the words are scary and I was worried it would introduce him to the dark side of the world, I guess.
But then I read somewhere that books by Maurice Sendak and Roald Dahl and the like are so beloved by little kids because somewhere inside the little kid lives this terrible fear of something unknown and big and lurking, terrifying and enticing at the same time, and these stories give voice to that fear and engage it. They do not introduce the kid to darkness; the darkness already lives within. And it wants to read a book.
I picked up Minpins on a whim at the bookstore -mostly because of the illustrations. Turns out, it’s the last book that Roald Dahl wrote and the only picture book he made. I took it home and read it. Big, terrible monster chases a little boy trying to eat him; fire billows and danger lurks and the boy narrowly escapes and then ends up saving the day – not just his own, but the entire forest’s. It’s a scary story that ends well and so I kept the book, put it in the closet and told myself I will read it to Wombat when he is older and ready.
I decided he was ready today.
I don’t know why. Although, I must admit that in addition to the illustrations and the ‘darkness within must have a conversation with the outside’ aspects, the book also appealed to me because the boy gets in trouble because he DID NOT LISTEN TO HIS MOM, who WARNED him NOT to go into the forest, and he does, and he almost gets eaten. Then he becomes a hero, but that’s clearly due to his Mom’s excellent parenting. In unrelated events, I’ve had a hard time getting Wombat to pay attention to me lately, which meant to me he might be ready for this book.
Don’t judge me. Like everyone else around you, I am fighting a hard battle.
I read this to Elijah today before naptime (because reading this book before bedtime seemed precarious). I started off reading every word, but he was too sleepy and the book was too long so I started to paraphrase about halfway into it. Also, I made some parts not quite as vivid and as scary as a result of the paraphrasing. Elijah was fascinated. After we finished the story, he quietly kept looking over the pictures several times – the scary pictures. He very happily went off into the fantasy world, with it’s darkness and mystery and terror and excitement. After looking over pictures, he sat quietly for a little bit just taking in the story, holding the book in his hands and looking at it.
“I like this book. This is really a very nice present.” said Elijah in a very adult way.
“Who is the owner of this book?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Who made it?”
“You mean who wrote it?”
“A person called Roald Dahl.”
“Did he make other stories?”
“Yes. He made many stories.”
Elijah napped with his new book next to him. He didn’t want to let it go.
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.