Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Alternative to the Flickering God

ND Wilson has become my kids’ favorite author. His latest book, The Chestnut King, moved into the top three books ever for Kenz and the top one for Kayleigh.

I began working my way through the first two in the trilogy—again—before I started this one in order to get my head on straight regarding Henry York and his fantastical story. Kenz begged me today to skip it and just read the third one. “You'll remember, Dad, just read it. I can't wait to talk about it.”

Twelve pages in and I am lost again in a fabulous world. My palms are damp and my hands are cold, which is what happens when I am gripped by this kind of story. Immediate familiarity. Immediate danger, suspense, and a constant desire to read the next line. Good and evil. And most importantly, heroes. I absolutely love stories like this.

ND Wilson posted on Credenda/Agenda about writing for kids, truth, and adultish readers, of whom I am definitely one. (You might remember what C.S. Lewis wrote here and here.) Here are some quotes from Wilson's article. It is worth reading if you enjoy stories like I do.

This first paragraph explains why Nathan writes kids’ books:
I write kids’ books because I can tell the Truth, and the Truth is that The Real is throbbingly fantastic. Ask the nearest grasshopper or rodent or turtle. Ask the nearest star (but show some respect and don’t look directly at her—she’s powerful enough to peal your nose and blind your eyes). I want to paint a picture of this world that is accurate (if impressionistic), and I don’t want a single young reader to grow up and look back on me as the peddler of sweet youthful falsehoods. I want them to get a world vision that can grow and mature and age with them until, like all exoskeletons, it must be cast aside—not as false, but as a shallow introduction to things even deeper and stranger and more wonderful (and involving more dragonflies).
This second paragraph is (partly) why I read them:
A final point, disjointed but related. Many readers of children’s books are, in fact, adults. The line at any bookstore signing can tell me this. I don’t think it’s difficult to understand. Sure, some of the adult readers focus on children’s books for the same reasons that others focus on romance—they’ve developed a particular itch and they scratch it. But others are wandering the store (pickily) looking for flavors they remember from when they were kids, looking for their young eyes again, hoping to once more see the world how they used to. They’re looking for Mom’s apple pie and Grandma’s quilt. They’re looking for a kind of truth that's hard to find up at the adult table, but a truth nonetheless. Often they’re looking for something to fill that role for their own children. And sadly, they frequently bring along a bipedal lump of flesh or two—numbed by the flickering god—hoping I might have some mental-imaginative defibrillator tucked away in my book bag. Sometimes I do (and those are good times). Sometimes I don’t.
(Final caveat: my kids are, by God's grace, not numbed by the “flickering god”; they can be found reading books on the couches any given day.)

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