We, as adults, are a pretentious group.
Take wine for example. I’m a big fan, but I’m also aware that it is simply grape juice. The same grape juice we drank as children. We loved it as kids because it’s sweet and sweet = happiness. As adults, we strip away that sweetness, rot the juice, and are happy to pay $10 - $500,000 per bottle. Either way, we drink it to get lit; the only difference between then and now, is that now, we use pretension to convince ourselves that we enjoy the taste of rotten fruit juice to justify consuming alcohol (which we only do because it brings us to a mental state we enjoyed naturally as children (freedom)).
I'm convinced that no normal human naturally enjoys the taste of rotten grape juice, hence wine slushies.
So in using the same blunt analysis I just applied above, I’d like to take a stab now at books.
As an English major in college, I spent 3 years reading words on paper. Some of those words were beautifully put together, and as a whole, made me feel something; I preferred those texts which were often short. Then, there were the densely packed words on paper that spanned 100+ pages. I understood all the words, but they were put together in a way that was tortuous - I think the professors referred to it as style. Whatever.
The point is, long, complicated and dense books are not naturally enjoyable. Similar to wine, we, as adults layer on meaning to these difficult books where none existed. We call this "interpretation." I call it pretension yet again.
Then after college, I got a job, stopped reading the texts I loved, and started reading the Best Seller’s List and nonfiction. I was fine.
Then I became a father and discovered the world of children’s literature. I was hooked.
Caveat - not all children’s books are well-written.
But the really good ones -- they linger with you, like a powerful poem.
The more children’s books I read to my daughter, the harder it is for me to appreciate adult fiction. Perhaps it’s my depleting attention span, or perhaps the older I get, the more I appreciate brevity.
Unfortunately, most novels lack it.
Whatever happened to the space that’s left by words unsaid, where our imagination chimes in? That pregnant pause.
Whatever happened to the poets?
I have a secret: they’re hiding.
They’re hiding in the children’s section, in my daughter’s bookcase, at the elementary school library. There’s a lot of great poetry in children’s books; particularly the illustrated kind.
It’s damn hard to write a book that has plot, character development, awesome flow, and touches on an important theme -- using only a handful of sentences written in plain language. Trust me, I’m going through it right now.
We read books to learn or be entertained, and both are critical when the audience is a child under the age of 6. Books written for children serve many purposes and play an especially important role in the development of their identities, interests and points of view on life; I’m not speaking as an expert on childhood education, but as a father of two young children whose development is happening in front of my eyes every day.
I find it funny that, as adults, we read adult fiction and nonfiction, but long for the stories of our childhood. We crave that feeling we had from the books we read back then.
So I propose that we stop pretending to be adults on occasion and start being our true selves again - you know what I’m referring to: that inner child, thy genuine self.
If any of this resonates with you, then the next time you’re considering picking up a book, try browsing the children’s section of the bookstore or library and let your curiosity wonder. Maybe you'll find that feeling again in the book you bring home - and oh yeah - don’t forget to pick up some w̶i̶n̶e̶ juice on the way back.
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