Recently I’ve been in the mood to take in some children’s literature. Probably spurred by the itch, that is getting ever stronger, I have to get back to working on my next book (a children’s story). Because of this I felt it was high time I got around to reading Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Although I know both stories by heart, I’ve never actually read them. So, feeling a little sheepish about my obvious oversight as a children’s author, I opened the pages of my Dandelion’s Library copy of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan (it`s two books in one, check out http://tinyurl.com/l88y83f for more info, or to grab a copy for yourself) and started my journey to Wonderland.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland makes me happy and I’m not really sure why. It always has. Probably because it’s nonsense and happy to be that way. Alice is insensitive to those around her (the Doormouse and the birds during the sea of tears episode for instance), she is constantly interrupting people (think of the Doormouse’s story during the tea party), and she’s quite judgemental (the Mock Turtle comes to mind here). Somehow I love her still. For all those faults, she isn’t all bad. Alice is completely unaffected and is never afraid to be who she is. She can also be found many times speaking up when she sees that an injustice has been performed. She also has a voracious appetite for discovering new things–which may account for her continual interrupting and seeming judgementalness. If nothing else, Alice’s teaches us the importance of imagination–to expand one’s mind and let things you’d never thought possible, be possible, if only in a dream.
I have never watched the real version of Peter Pan, nor have I watched the cartoon Disney version. The only ‘Peter Pan’ I’ve ever watched is Hook with Robin Williams and Neverland with Johnny Depp. Both are brilliant movies, but both refer to something I had no real experience with. Thus, I am to J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan full of expectation. I readied my inner child to be delighted by the sprite-like qualities of Peter and the endearing qualities of the lost boys. It was within the first few pages that I found myself asking, “Why do we love Peter so?”
By all accounts he’s a retched boy who kidnapped three children and proceeded to go on a killing spree. But we do love him. We love him because he is “youth, [and] joy” he is “a little bird that has broken out of the egg (p. 59).” Peter is the epitome of non-conformity, and in a world which encourages, even pushes, us to conform this is very appealing. And, just when you thought he was a rebel to the bone, he does something which recognizes society’s need for structure–he unbars the window so Wendy, John, and Michael can return to their parents. Therefore, we must love Peter because he represents the work-life balance we all strive to achieve.
These two stories are must-experiences in any child’s lives. There are many versions on film and in print an I would recommend enjoying them again and again. Even if you’re a big kid. It’s good for the pretending-muscle.