British History, Culture & Sports, History of Freedom, Heroes, Inventors, Brits at their Best.com, English country scene

Blog Home | All Posts

Books for 4, 14, 40 and forever

Yesterday two writers at Canada's National Post recommended books for various ages and shared insights about home, middle age, childhood and eternity.

Barbara Kay recommended a book for childhood for reasons we hadn't thought about -

At its core, the book is about the primordial sweetness of "home," whether home is a community-oriented water rat's hole in the riverbank, a loner mole's sunless underground bunker or a toad's eccentric's mansion. Home becomes most precious, though, when we leave it, as these creatures do, yearn for it and suffer in finding our way back to it.

Home's hospitality must be extended to those in need - Badger exemplifies this principle when Rat and Mole need succour - and home cannot be neglected, or we may lose it.

Neglected Toad Hall is overrun by the evil Stoats and Weasels. Only courage, ingenuity and the loyalty of one's friends can drive them out. In the process, the arrogant Mr. Toad learns humility, and the others, having been initiated into the world's sometimes frightening realities, achieve self-confidence. By the end, they have gained a deeper appreciation for their humble homes, and for their friends. Valuable character lessons here.

You've guessed that Wind in the Willows is the book. We certainly do need "courage, ingenuity and the loyalty of friends" to live. A great political principle lurking in The Wind in the Willows is "your home is your castle" and not to be violated.

Kay's book choice for adolescence is more surprising -

The meaning behind George Orwell's allegorical novel Animal Farm is accessible to even the dimmest navel-gazing teen. The riveting narrative of a prosperous English farm's devolution into ruin illuminates the paving stones leading from the unrealistic dream of "equality" to the hell of totalitarianism.

Animal Farm will never grow stale. Although all the animal characters are well drawn, Boxer, the self-sacrificing draft horse, stands out as the epitome of a simple idealist's abused innocence: The feeble thud of those hooves against the walls of the knacker's van remains, for me, one of literary history's most haunting political wake-up calls.

Orwell's book is haunting and chilling. Right for teens? Orwell would be amused to learn that in school Animal Farm is called "the Shortest Serious Novel It's OK to Write a Book Report About".

Who can forget the pigs? Their voices can be heard today -

"We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of the farm depend on us. Day and night, we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples."

It's too bad that Animal Farm is sometimes mistaken as solely an attack on communism.

In "My own private world of letters" fellow Post columnist George Jonas recalls books read in a Budapest air raid shelter, and recommends a book that "says pretty much all there's to say about human beings, and does so in words accessible to children at four, adolescents at 14, adults at 40 and everyone else forever". You'll guess the book he has in mind.

cr_winnie_the_pooh.jpg

Comments (1)

This book -- with which I have lived since having it read to me in a brilliant Dutch translation at the age of 5 – is indeed the only book which, after the Bible and Shakespeare, one might need as a castaway on a desert island. It would remind one (if one was an adult) with mild satire of the human types in the world one had left behind; it would teach one a sense of humour about the situation one was in; it would recount the virtue of umbrellas and savoir-faire; it would point one back to the importance of comfort food on the one hand and staying more or less slim (ouch!) on the other; it would stimulate one to climb the island’s trees in search of Hunny but never without a balloon; and it would keep one in mind of kindness and an amused gentleness about the world as one moves from stage to stage of our human stay in this Hundred-Acre Wood.

Post a comment

(Please do give us your name or the name you write under in the form below and your URL if you have one. Your comment may take a little time to appear. Thanks for waiting.)

COPYRIGHT