20 Following

Approximation of a Fairy Tale

The Lonely Book - Kate Bernheimer

I was not expecting The Lonely Book to arrive so fast, as I had just ordered it from another library a few days ago. I keep trying to imagine what the librarian must have thought when she delivered this picture book from the library at Penn State to my college. College students read picture books?


Well, I do. Which is very ironic because as a child, I never read picture books. They are just not part of the reading culture that I grew up in. Besides, even with the few picture books that I got my hands on, I only looked at the illustrations anyway. In fact, I saw a remnant of this practice today when the first thing I did upon receiving this book was to flip through the pages and go, "Oh so pretty!"


This semester, I am taking a class that focuses on literacies and how literacy practices are developed. Reading this particular book was an amazing exercise to reflect upon my own reading habits and how they have shaped my identity today. Perhaps more importantly though is the feeling of contentment that I got upon reaching the last page. The Lonely Book would appeal to all those who have a love affair with books and readings. It is like that sweet first love story with a happy ending. 


There are so many things to glean from picture books, or from any stories that are often associated with "children"/childish. This quest to read high literature, the classics, the post-moderns, etc. is perhaps misguided, or at least it is missing a fundamental part of reading. Those simple stories for the young are in fact the most universal of all, and only the universal stories can let all of us reflect upon the journeys we have all been on. 

"Franz Kafka wrote, "A book should serve as the axe for the frozen sea within us." All the tools at my command as a writer - figures of speech, the various ways I can create the music of sentences, point of view, voice, etc., etc., etc., - are merely tools. We don't look at a beautiful house and then start analyzing the carpenter's saws and hammers. Figures of speech and all the elements that make up good writing are my saws and hammers. I write books to provide homes for souls.

That is also what I hope to find when I read."

Lester, Julius. "On the Teaching of Literature." English Journal Jan. 2005: 29-31.