World book day was a little while ago. I went to my shelf and contemplated what my favorite book is after all these years of being in love with the realm of stories.
It’s probably one of the most difficult questions to ask a book lover… you want me to pick just one?? (you can hear the shrillness of my voice, I’m sure.)
Since the person who initially asked me that question was, well, me I decided that I could break the rules and pick a small collection of favorites instead of just one. Because really, what was I going to do about it?
What I selected were the works that held special meaning to me and what I feel most influenced by.
- The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Peter Pan by JM Barrie
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- Sector 7 by David Wiesner
Lord of the Flies was what we read in AP Literature, with a teacher who told me that I had an aptitude for literary theory and exposed me to the beauty of symbolism. The discovery of literary devices changed stories for me. Beyond just the surface tale now there were all these other elements to explore and each one felt like a friendly wave from the author that only I could see.
I read Lord of the Flies three times in that class, always amazed to find something new hidden within the text. My high school paperback is worn and bent with multicolored scribbles in the margin and loads of underlines, arrows, circles the occasional exclamation mark.
My favorite part will always be Ralph, the boy with fair hair, who desperately clung to the life he knew, resisting the call to give into savagery. He was constantly pulling his hair out of his face and securing it back, because a civilized person would not let their hair go wild. But, in the end, Ralph succumbs and the line reads:
“Ralph fastened his hands around the chewed spear and his hair fell.”
What I find with the others in the list are such fantastic worlds and the imagination that first made me want to create worlds of my own. Peter Pan was the first, and then Alice and then the Neverending Story (which, I admit, I saw the movie first). Many years later I discovered David Wiesner’s wordless storytelling and the pure magic that lifts off of the page with his watercolor illustrations telling whimsical stories that made me feel like a child reading Peter Pan for the list time. I’m a big believer in the value of children’s literature. How incredible is it that you can read these works as a small child, delight in their magic and then revisit them years later as an adult and find the magic just as powerful and the effect identical to all those years ago. In fact, I believe that since our adult lives are often filled with significantly more stress and despair, the comfort provided by these stories is stronger and more valuable than it’s even been before.
It’s for this reason that I don’t pack my children’s books up in box to stow away in the closet or under a bed. They live in infamy, on the middle shelf, bright, resilient and never-ceasing to keep my head in the clouds.