Wednesday, August 30, 2006

That thing with feathers


Black Beauty grows old (and Ginger dies!); Mattie never is nice to Wanda Petronski, and joins the other girls in egging her on about her “hundred dresses”; Lyra causes her best friend’s death; Anne Frank goes off to a concentration camp …. but all these books still left me with a feeling of hope -- about people and possibilities. Great books do this not with platitudes or PC messages or Walt Disney happy endings, but because of the way their (very real and believable) heroes and heroines react:
“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart,”

or
“Yes, she must have [really liked us],” said Mattie, and she blinked away the tears that came every time she thought of Wanda standing alone in the sunny spot in that sunny spot in the schoolyard, looking stolidly over at the group of laughing girls, after she had said, ‘Sure, a hundred of them – all lined up…”

or
“The first ghost to leave the world of the dead was Roger. He took a step forward, and turned to look back at Lyra, and laughed in surprise as he found himself turning into the night, the starlight, the air, and then he was gone, leaving behind such a vivid little burst of happiness that Will was reminded of the bubbles in a glass of champagne.”


Maybe it has nothing to do with the way the characters react, maybe it’s just something the best writers show us or induce in us about the gallant human spirit. Anyway, I feel bigger-hearted and more hopeful after reading them.

“Hope is the thing with feathers –
that perches in the soul.” – Emily Dickinson


And how about that word “perches”? Pretty perfect. That some people write that well – and that some girls now still read and love her poetry – gives me hope, too.

8 comments:

Libby Koponen said...

I forgot LAUGHING. My favorite children's books do make me laugh out loud...someplace in MATILDA Matilda says that she likes CS Lewis's books but they don't have "enough funny bits." I like books with funny bits! And I also think that things can be joyous and light-hearted without being shallow -- in fact lots of the earnest stuff is the most shallow and one-dimensional. ANd when it tries to be hopeful it's really depressing....

This should be part of the post but it took so long to deal with blogger this morning that if I try to republish I will be late for work -- yet again!

alvina said...

I love this post! We've had a lot of hopeful posts recently. I think we can all use the peptalk. The Anne Frank quote was may mantra in HS and college, and to a certain extent, it still is.

Agyw said...

Well said Libby. Thank you for this.

I think the attraction of being hopeful in children's literature isn't ONLY because of our adult sensibility of what we want to give our children. But children themselves have an innate sense of hope.

Beautiful.

Nancy said...

Wonderful post. Thanks!

Agyw said...

Libby, one other thought, I'd thought I'd recognized that Dickinson quote. (Gotsta love Emily!)

I do bookplates for people (Pam Ryan, Cynthia Lord, Dori Chaconas, Kathleen O'Dell, to name a few), and I did one for a friend, R.A. Nelson. He loves Dickinson too, and that's the quote he chose for the premier of his book Teach Me.

Thought you'd like to know that bit of trivia.

Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu said...

Lovely, Libby. I'm not familiar with Lyra and Roger. I'm off on other shores and am far out on the edges of the book world. The scene has me wanting to read more. Please save me some steps by letting me know the title.

Libby Koponen said...

Thank you all! I often feel self-conscious about my posts (I think we all do) and hearing that you enjoy them is reassuring -- and fun.

Lyra and Roger are in THE GOLDEN COMPASS trilogy by Philip Pullman -- I quoted the 3rd book, THE AMBER SPYGLASS. The second is THE SUBTLE KNIFE....the official name of the trilogy is HIS DARK MATERIALS. I envy you having the pleasure of reading it for the first time!

Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu said...

Thanks, Libby. I've been thinking of ordering a Pullman book for some time now, but didn't know where to start.