Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me
by Karen Swallow Prior
This week we're discussing chapters 1-3. Join us!
I remember the first time I read Goodnight Moon. I read it over and over again, excited for each page-turn so I could search for the little white mouse and see the minute hand on the clock advance, little by little.
I remember the first time I read Ramona the Brave and all the other Ramona Quimby stories. I knew exactly how she felt when that mean ol' German Shepherd harrassed her. I knew how she felt and also looked up to her, for she was braver than I. I would have had neither courage nor creativity enough to defend myself by throwing one of my shoes at the growling menace.
I remember, too, the first time I read Charlotte's Web. When I read these children's books for the first time, I was not a child. I was a mother in my late twenties and early thirties, taking one son, then two, then three, to the weekly storytimes at the Rockrimmon library branch. There I discovered, and became enamored with, childre's fiction. I probably would never have read much children's literature if I had not had children of my own.
Unlike Karen Swallow Prior's, my childhood included no Grandma and Grandpa On-the-Farm; no love for or even exposure to animals; no experiences, really, outside the concrete of the L.A. suburb that was my stomping grounds. Yet if I were to write my own Booked, Wilbur and Charlotte would get a chapter all to themselves too. I think it's because they were friends. And because I have always, always wanted a friend like Charlotte.
As she weaves words about Wilbur into her web, Wilbur tries to live up to the meaning of the words. . . . Like the old riddle of the chicken and the egg, the power of giving something its proper name, in turn, empowers it to become the name it is called.
- Prior, p.42
I recognized the great power in Charlotte's words when she called her friend Wilbur "terrific."
Wilbur blushed. "But I'm not terrific, Charlotte. I'm just about average for a pig."
"You're terrific as far as I'm concerned," replied Charlotte, sweetly, "and that's what counts. You're my best friend, and I think you're sensational."
- from Charlotte's Web, p.91
It's the power of encouragement and the wonder of generous love. Years after I read that for the first time, a friend told me, "Monica, I think you're terrific!" And the effect of those words coming over the phone was just as powerful as when I read page 91 of Charlotte's Web. Even more powerful, because the "terrific" was not meant for a fictional pig. It was meant for me.