One of the coolest things about my secret identity as a children’s author is that I get to read kids’ books and pretend that it’s research.
“I’m working on my next novel,” I sputter to the librarian.
“Oh, I believe you,” she chuckles. She hands me the comic collections of Uncle Scrooge and Little Lulu, a recorded book of “The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle” and a DVD of “VeggieTales: Tomato Sawyer’s and Huckleberry Larry’s Big River Rescue,” and winks. “Don’t study too hard.”
Experts now say that reading kids’ books is the adult thing to do. One champion of children’s lit is James Holzhauer, the reigning king of “Jeopardy!” with about $2 million in winnings as of this writing.
How did he get to be so smart? Kids’ books.
“I’ve found that in an adult reference book, if it’s not a subject I’m interested in, I just can’t get into it,” Holzhauer told the New York Times. “I was thinking, what is the place in the library I can go to to get books tailored to make things interesting for uninterested readers? Boom. The children’s section.”
Adults are adept at twisting a topic until all the joy is squeezed out and a convoluted pulp of boring facts remain. But play the lyrical whimsy of “Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne, such as these gems, and life pops into focus:
• “One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”
• “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
• “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
In her brilliant piece “10 Reasons to Read Children’s Books Instead of ‘Grown-Up’ Books,” Isabelle Sudron says, “If you place a confusing, fictional situation in front of an adult, then they will immediately start to question things.
“Children, on the other hand,” Sudron said, “have big, fantastic imaginations with no limits, as do the books they read. If you place an unusual, fictional situation in front of them, it won’t take them long to put things together and explain the missing pieces.”
C.S. Lewis wrote to his granddaughter, Lucy, that he had written a novel called “The Chronicles of Narnia” for her, but now that it was finished, she had grown too old for it. “But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again,” he said.
I could read volumes of scholarly tomes on self-acceptance. Or I could pick up “I Wish That I Had Duck Feet,” a 1965 “easy reader” by Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss).
The book begins:
“I wish that I had duck feet.
“And I can tell you why.
“You can splash around in duck feet.
“You don’t have to keep them dry.”
Our hero wishes for all kinds of improvements, but in zany rhymes and delightful illustrations, figures out the downside to each in well less than 100 pages. He even imagines combining all the great features others have — deer antlers, an elephant’s nose, a lion’s tail and so on — but figures it would just land him in the zoo.
“I think there are some things
“I do not wish to be.
“And that is why
“I think that I
“just wish to be like me.”
Which is to say that I’m busy conducting research for my next novel. Care to visit the Hardy Boys with me?
contact “peter pan” at firstname.lastname@example.org, on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter.