Tag Archives: books

My love for children’s literature (or why I’ll choose Lemony Snicket over Stephen King any day of the week)

Well-read people are less likely to be evil.

-Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope

I used to be labeled as somewhat bookish and fear I carry that title without the reading history to back it up.  It’s true, I spent most of my time in childhood reading.  I was homeschooled for part of elementary school, nearly all of middle school, and half of high school, so I would often finish my work fairly early in the day which left me with the rest of the day to read.  I burned through books like crazy quite proud of the ratio of read-to-not-read books on the little bookshelf at the end of the hall.

However, I always wanted to be one of those people who loved classic literature.  After quite a few school assignments and several attempts at reading classic novels on my own, I have come the conclusion that many of those books are not really my thing.  I can read them, but I don’t enjoy most of them and usually find myself trudging through in order to check the book off on Goodreads or something.

As I am sure you know, when people say ‘It’s my pleasure,’ they usually mean something along the lines of, ‘There’s nothing on Earth I would rather do less.’ […]

The Penultimate Peril

Over the past few years, I haven’t read very many books partially because I have felt the crushing weight of adulthood telling me that I must grow up and learn to enjoy Chaucer and Plath and Tolkien and leave the children’s books behind.  My standard response has been to pick up a few children’s books here and there and read through them while stifling the pressure I feel shoving me toward books intended for adults.

I don’t exactly know where this pressure comes from.  I remember my mother telling me in high school that, “A good book is a good book no matter who it was written for.”  I think perhaps it comes from the constant struggle to feel more like an adult because I am 26 and I have a full-time job and a 401k and a food dehydrator, but I still feel as unsure of my future and my understanding of the way I think things should be as I ever have.  Maybe I think that adopting the reading habits of a Grown-Up Person will cement the fact that I am also grown because I like media that is made for adults.  I’m not sure.

What I have realized recently is that I like children’s literature for reasons more complex than it being easy to read.  I, like many adults out there, don’t have life all figured out.  I’m still experiencing new things, I still feel like a baby every once in awhile, and there are a lot of things about life that I simply don’t understand.  I also have a really difficult time expressing myself through any means other than the written word (and even that is hit or miss).  Many times, an attempt to discover why I am upset about something will result in a friend and I literally repeating the same conversation two or three times before I can figure out why I feel a certain way.  I don’t understand my own emotions sometimes (which, I gather, is somewhat common amongst adults).

I think this is the reason I love children’s literature as much as I do. Children’s authors are often able to pluck the words from my very emotions and plaster them on a page.  It’s the reason, in the wake of my friend’s death last year, I referred so often to Lemony Snicket.  Because, try as I might, there was no better way to explain what was going on, especially as I’d never had to process through real grief before.

It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed. If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, you cannot possibly imagine it.
The Bad Beginning

Literature intended for children has to stop to explain the way the world works because the intended audience hasn’t learned that yet.  Authors must carefully weave tidbits of wisdom between layers of action and emotion because children are still trying to figure everything out.  Books intended for adults often leave some of this out, assuming that the readers have a grasp on the realities of life, that they have it somewhat together.

But, I’m still trying to figure a lot of stuff out. Stuff like…

Oftentimes. when people are miserable, they will want to make other people miserable, too. But it never helps.

The Wide Window

Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make — bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake — if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble. Making assumptions simply means believing things are a certain way with little or no evidence that shows you are correct, and you can see at once how this can lead to terrible trouble. For instance, one morning you might wake up and make the assumption that your bed was in the same place that it always was, even though you would have no real evidence that this was so. But when you got out of your bed, you might discover that it had floated out to sea, and now you would be in terrible trouble all because of the incorrect assumption that you’d made. You can see that it is better not to make too many assumptions, particularly in the morning.

The Austere Academy

One of the greatest myths in the world – and the phrase ‘greatest myths’ is just a fancy way of saying ‘big fat lies’ — is that troublesome things get less and less troublesome if you do them more and more. People say this myth when they are teaching children to ride bicycles, for instance, as though falling off a bicycle and skinning your knee is less troublesome the fourteenth time you do it than it is the first time. The truth is that troublesome things tend to remain troublesome no matter how many times you do them, and that you should avoid doing them unless they are absolutely urgent.

The Ersatz Elevator

Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.

The Beatrice Letters

So, I think I identify with children’s literature a bit more than adult literature.  Not because I’m childlike or naive or immature; but because I know myself enough to know that I don’t fully understand everything that happens in the world nor my own reactions to such happenings.  And sometimes, having someone else put into words thoughts and emotions that are fairly common is comforting.  Because who wants to feel alone in their reactions to the craziness of the world around them?

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Dear Manic Pixie Dream Girl Stock Character

Dear Manic Pixie Dream Girl Stock Character,

We need to talk.

You have a problem, and it’s a rather serious one.

For years, I was blind to your issues.  In fact, I have dedicated a large chunk of my life to attempting to be just like you.  Not just like Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown or just like Natalie Portman in Garden State, but just like you, the ultimate combination of all of the characters who fall in your spectrum.  I wanted to be the girl who appreciated life more than the people around her did, who relished nature, who approached difficult and awkward circumstances with Reckless Abandon.  I wanted to be the girl who lived carpe diem rather than just spewing it forth like the cliche that it is, who danced in parking lots, in the rain, in the woods, in the middle of walking her dogs just to prove to myself, friends and the world around me that I was unique and surely loved life.

And, more than anything, I wanted to change The Boy.  It doesn’t really matter which Boy, because, as you know, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, your shallow, hollow shell of a character ultimately fulfills her own purpose by changing whatever Tortured Soul is thrown her way.  The Boy is often complex, confused about his place in the world, possibly depressed, and has emotions beyond those of Wild Abandon.  And you change him.  You show him the error of his ways.  You show him how to love life – every minute – by appreciating small things and forcing him well outside of his comfort zone.  You are, in effect, his saving grace in what seems to be a bleak, monotonous situation.

The problem is that you shouldn’t be expected to change anyone.  Of course, people change people.  That does happen.  But the weight of The Boy’s eventual happiness often rests entirely on your tiny, Shins-loving shoulders.  And this is a problem.

The Boy doesn’t truly find his way in life.  He finds you, Manic Pixie Dream Girl.  You are responsible for changing him, you are the one in whom he finds his fulfillment, and if you have an off day, he will be detrimentally affected.

The above reasons are why I have decided to stop attempting to follow in your footsteps.  While I want to appreciate the life that has been given to me, I don’t want to force actions just so others think I’m appreciating life (when I don’t even enjoy dancing in parking lots most of the time).  I don’t want to feel the pressure of always having to be upbeat and quirky, even when I’m having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and really just need a hug and some prayer.  And I cannot change The Boy, whoever he happens to be.  I cannot be the agent of change or the steady bedrock upon which his entire appreciation for life rests.

I’m abandoning trying to copy your ways, and I really hope you abandon your ways as well.  You have been a token character in American media for far too long.  Your message is dangerous, your personality lacks depth and, while your love of life is admirable, your other qualities seem unhealthy, and I no longer desire them.

Sincerely,

Chelsea


Dear People Who Review Products on Websites

Dear People Who Review Products on Websites,

I’m not sure what part of the phrase “Product Review” is confusing, but clearly there is some clarification that is needed.

When you write a product review, you are supposed to review the product.  When you write a recipe review, you are supposed to review the recipe.  You are not supposed to write a review of the packaging used, the shipping time, or of your own culinary incompetence.  In the past, I felt this was self-evident, but apparently it is not.

For instance, if you purchase a book on Amazon.com and wish to write a review, you are supposed read the book, consider the contents, decide if you liked or disliked it, and write about your like or dislike of the book.  You are not supposed to write a review praising or denouncing the time the item took to ship.  You are not supposed to write a review praising or denouncing the cover art of the book.  You are not supposed to write a review praising or denouncing the author’s other works or a review that simply states how excited you are to read the book before you are actually able to read it.  All of these things serve to give the book in question an inaccurate star rating, which is incredibly unhelpful to the general public.

In the same vein, if you visit AllRecipes.com and wish to review a recipe, you should make the recipe, taste it and decide if you liked or disliked the meal produced from the recipe.  You should not write a review of the recipe if you changed half of the ingredients.  You should not write a review if your own incompetence or ignorance as a cook caused severe problems with the recipe.  You should not write a review if you once tasted a recipe similar that your Great Aunt Miffy made ten years ago and you hated it, like, really, really hated it and no one wanted to eat it and it ruined Christmas.  Once again, these types of reviews only serve to muddy the waters of quality reviews.

If you have genuinely experienced the book, product or recipe that you wish to write about, by all means, review it.  The public has a right to know about the products they are considering devoting money, time and energy to.  However, if you are reviewing anything other than the book, product or recipe at hand, save your comments for a personal blog, your diary or conversation among friends, where they can be properly dissected and not affect the star/spoon/whatever rating that is supposed to indicate the quality of the product.

Thank you for your time.  Please reform your habits.

Sincerely,

Chelsea


Dear Twilight Fans

Dear Twilight Fans,

I do not dislike the Twilight series because I’m a Harry Potter fan.

I do not dislike the Twilight series because I’m discriminatory against vampires or werewolves. (I mean, Lupin is my favorite.)

I do not dislike the Twilight series because I’m a critic who’s angry that nothing that she’s written has been published.

I do not dislike the Twilight series because I don’t know what I’m talking about, I just like to hate on fangirls, or I’m bitter with the world.

I dislike the Twilight series because Stephenie Meyer is a terrible writer. End of story.

Though Edward and Bella’s bizarrely codependent relationship is also a contributing factor.

But it’s mainly because of the terrible, laughable writing.

Sincerely,
Chelsea


Dear Harry Potter

Dear Harry Potter (and By Extension, J. K. Rowling),

After over ten years of resistance, it has finally happened: you’ve officially sucked me in with your fanciful storytelling and fantastic character development.

Blast.

Also, J. K., I want to be an author, too.  If you have any ProTips or just regular Tips for me, I’d feel just fine accepting them.

Sincerely,

Chelsea