Eat your books

eat your books


Natalie Babbitt (the wife of one of my old bosses, and the author of “Tuck Everlasting”) is a terrific person who writes and illustrates pretty good books. She was featured in a documentary called “Library of the Early Mind” a few years ago. Some of the documentary’s participants complained about the publishing industry. Natalie, being smart, did not complain about it, probably because it’s like being an oxygen breather complaining about breathing oxygen.




Instead, she talked about her own love of books.  “I write books for children,” she said, “because my childhood was the most important part of my life to date.  And I’m seventy-two.”  Later she talked about her love of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” noting that Alice was the smartest person in the book, and that the adults were “idiots.”   “And,” she added, “I grew up to find that that’s true.”




That’s one of those sharp little zaps you get from a really smart observer. Myself, I didn’t read the Alice books until high school, and I was immediately taken with Alice’s brisk businesslike manner, and how she deals with the various kinds of nonsense around her.  She can be brusque, as with the Queen of Hearts; she can be nannyish and mothering, as with the White Queen; she can be sweet and sentimental, as with the White Knight. Alice, at the age of seven, is the only really adult-acting person in either book.




Children are generally not surprised by this. Children love their books. I know I loved mine.




I once read a wonderful Maurice Sendak anecdote, which I hope is true:




“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”



So: you really liked that John Grisham novel, did you?




Let’s see you eat it.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

6 Responses to Eat your books

  1. starproms says:

    Alice in Wonderland opened up a new world for me – a world of abstract and I loved it and still do.

  2. I enjoyed Tuck Everlasting very much when I read it as an adult.

    • Sadly they made a terrible movie about it. Natalie has some very unpleasant things to say about the Hollywood process.

      • I agree. The movie was a terrible disappointment. Not as bad as the execrable movie made from the wonderful “Dark is Rising” series. But bad.

      • I agree completely. We saw the preview today for the second Hunger Games movie, and it doesn’t look wonderful. Frankly I haven’t been able to read the second or third books; the first was a real page-turner, I thought, but the opening of the second leaves me cold. I wonder how it will be received.

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