Thursday, February 21, 2008

If you only do the easy and useless jobs....

Finding Wonderland has a great post from a. fortis about "all the memorable words and ideas and history and everything else that I encountered for the first time in kids' books and teen books."

Here's one excerpt:

"As a kid, without those kids' books I wouldn't have learned about dodecahedrons or tesseracts. Those books taught me what a veruca was, and what makes somebody a twit."

Then she asks: "What have you learned from children's books?"

The first thing that came to mind for me was infinity and the concept of time. I vividly remember coming face to face with both of these in The Phantom Tollbooth. To this day, I can't hear the word "infinity" and not think of that chapter where Milo takes the "shortcut" to the Land of Infinity and winds up climbing the same set of stairs over and over. Later, he encounters the Terrible Trivium, who gives him impossible, time-wasting tasks to do, like moving a towering pile of sand, one grain at a time, with a pair of tweezers. As this demon says: "If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you'll never have to worry about the important ones, which are so difficult. You just won't have time."

I need to hear those last words of wisdom every single day.

Go on over to Finding Wonderland and tell a. fortis what you learned (the good way) from children's books.


  1. I agree. I think children's books should use lots of exciting wonderful words -and if children don't know the meaning they can ask - or guess.
    Charlotte's Web was a good example of this. Also Alice in Wonderland.

  2. Thanks for the plug!! And I'd almost forgotten about the Terrible Trivium. I learned what a trivial task was and how insidious they can actually be.

    I have to admit, there were two movies I was obsessed with as a child (to the point of driving my parents insane) and one of those was the movie version of The Phantom Tollbooth. The Terrible Trivium, the Doldrums...both got under your skin. I also had a great version of the book illustrated by Jules Feiffer.


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