Dearest Bookworms, I do hope you all got through Blue Monday and like me are looking forward to saying farewell to January. I always find this month the trickiest to combat and this year it feels much harder than ever.
I am very lucky to have piles of new titles at my disposal and I am taking advantage of lockdown time to drink gallons of herbal tea and take comfort from seeing the daffodils and snowdrops poking their shoots above the rather muddy and messy looking flower beds in my garden. During the Spring 2020 lockdown I rediscovered my love of running - I keep hoping that motivation to pound the streets and lanes will return but lets not get carried away for now the biscuit tin is my new best friend...and why not!
I promised in my last blog to talk about why I think Children's Fiction is the answer to finding comfort in these dismal days so here are my thoughts for your consideration.
I feel it is no coincidence that Oxford Graduate and All Souls Fellow Katherine Rundell has such an affinity for writing award winning children's fiction after spending her formative years living in Zimbabwe where school finished at 1.o'clock and teen culture simply meant climbing trees and having swimming competitions.
In 2019 Katherine added a new title to her list of best-sellers - a small volume for adults entitled Why You Should Read Children's Books Even Though You Are So Old And Wise. A 50 page essay where she argues that there is something particular about children’s fiction that can open up new perspectives for adults and help us refind things we may not even know we have lost. It takes us back to a time when “new discoveries came daily and when the world was colossal, before the imagination was trimmed and neatened…” There’s also something instructive in reading books that, as Rundell points out, are “specifically written to be read by a section of society without political or economic power”. In an age whose political ructions are the result of widespread frustration at the powerlessness of the many in the face of the few, this recognition of how emboldening and subversive children’s books can be feels important.
I commend you dear bookworms to peruse the shelves and reacquaint yourself with an old friend, be it Mary Lennox, The Indian In The Cupboard or Moon Face. You do not necessarily have to read it by torchlight , under the covers with the high light off but I do recommend a blanket of some description. If you feel slightly self-conscious about reading The Faraway Tree with an espresso in your hand or The Secret Garden whilst sipping on a Gin & Tonic or a bottle of Bud then might I direct you to Tove Jansson and her tales about the life and adventures of the Moomins and in particular Moomin Valley in November and I will let you into a secret - there are no Moomins in Moon Valley In November.
The first Moomin adventures were written in a time of war and Tove herself describes them as a wishful dream. A place to escape to when life itself is simply too much.
As enchanting as the Moomin series of books are and make no mistake they truly are enchanting they also have a fascinating sub-text which speaks of the troubles of life and are filled with huge philosophical ideas that are both complex and profound. Tove Jansson embraces melancholy and describes happiness so successfully through the small pleasures contained in all our lives (the wonderful day of cleaning - need I say more) that I feel you cannot fail to be astounded by a visitation or indeed if you read these books as a child a re-visit.
The Moomin series of books by Tove Jansson truly tick all the boxes, the very finest of children's fiction that can be read by adults with no fear of judgment. Stories that will bring you comfort and leave you with an ability to see the little things that will make you smile and bring you joy and of course as they are considered so very philosophical you can drink them with any adult beverage.
If all else fails may I suggest a post covid restrictions trip to Minnesota, a hello to Charlie Brown and a visit to Lucy and her psychiatric help booth for a mere 5 cents and we shall all feel fully restored...... I wonder if she is on zoom.
Until next time, stay safe.