Finding Beauty All Over Again

About two months ago, the word “seriously” made its appearance in Iris’s daily speech. It has grown in its presence and now squats annoyingly in every corner of her speech, most often accompanied by a snort. “Seriously, do I have to eat toast?” “Seriously? What are you doing Loli (our new cat)?” You get the idea. However, we now find ourselves in a bit of a quandary. Most times, when Iris uses the word, it’s quite funny and cute. A few times, though, it has bordered on rude. I have called her out on it but when asked to explain why it’s rude, I can’t seem to put it plainly. It’s the attitude. The preview of Iris the teenager. Horrors. So I shall thoroughly enjoy what moments of childhood still remain. Reading to her at bedtime is definitely one of those.

In the world of movies, sequels of classics usually suck. This is because expectations are already high and no matter how much CGI you throw at it, they never live up to them – wrong cast, wrong music, stupid changes to the story-line, the whinging goes on. With children’s books, however, a re-imagining or retelling can be quite refreshing and give a completely different perspective. This is absolutely true with Lou Kuenzler’s Finding Black Beauty (see my post on the original classic here). Although she stays true to the language and description of the original, it does have a much more modern tone, which makes it much easier to read.

In this retelling, Kuezler turns one of the original characters, the stable boy Joe Green, into a girl in disguise, Josephine Green. Josephine loses her father and gets forced out of her family home so she jumps at the chance of starting a career with the one thing she still loves above all – horses. She meets Black Beauty at Birtwick Park where Beauty first went after leaving his mum. She develops as close a bond with a horse that a human can.

I don’t do spoilers and if I did it with this book, I’d be doing it with the original as well. Suffice to say, it was very interesting to see how Kuenzler developed the story with enough of the original to maintain the story’s integrity. It is an excellent read for a 7 to 12-year-old girl. I felt it covered some very hard topics, such as losing a parent, feeling you have only yourself to depend on, being a homeless child on the streets and finding independence with great sensitivity. Kuenzler didn’t let Josephine wallow in grief or dwell too much on the difficult emotions or times, showing her resilience and persistence to her cause.

4 ⭐

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Rediscovering Your Wild Thing

Probably one of the top five benefits of becoming a parent is being able to experience childhood all over again albeit from a secondary point of view. It’s okay to jump in muddy puddles with undisguised glee (as long as you have an actual child with you). It’s perfectly acceptable to go hunting for worms and spiders. It’s a good thing to have more fun with the play dough/Lego/bubbles than your toddler. For me, it’s being able to read all the children’s books I want, especially those I missed out on when I was a child.

Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is a classic in every way. The illustrations, story and words are just as poetic and entrancing today as they were fifty years ago. It’s almost a travesty that I’ve never read it before. So obviously it was imperative to get it for Iris. It doesn’t teach any overt lessons. Instead it is a book that empathises with anyone who has ever had one of those days.

Everyone, child or adult alike, can relate to Max’s desire to be a beast sometimes. Every mother will relate to Max’s who sends him to his room without dinner.

Where the Wild Things Are

It is childish escapism that takes Max to a different world where he sees the “wild things” and becomes king of them.

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are

I firmly believe this trick also won Sir Anthony Hopkins his Oscar for creeping the whole world out as Hannibal Lecter.

We’ve all been there, indulging in our ids, if only in our imagination. So Max does that, becoming king of the wild things and romping, stomping and howling to his heart’s desire.

Where the Wild Things Are

He mimics his mum by sending them to bed without dinner.

In my mind, I think Max realises, at this point, some of the complexity of being a parent and both sympathises and longs for his mum, who has also relented and brought him something to eat.

Where the Wild Things Are

This quickly brings him back, body and mind, to the loving security of home.

Where the Wild Things Are

At some point, when I’ve got my craft on, we will be making these awesome toilet paper roll puppets!