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Never Too Old for Children’s Books

In college, we’re often forced to “grow up” and start thinking about our futures as adults. We dig our noses into various textbooks and keep our minds centered on reality, using those materials to prepare us for the adult world. In doing so, we forget about the stories that we read when we were children that prepared us for something much greater: life.

There is an allure to rereading children’s literature. It allows us to revisit the spaces that we were transported to in our youth and intermingle with the characters we once considered our closest friends, all with a new perspective. Reinhabiting our childhood provides an opportunity to escape, feeling the pleasure of rediscovery and nostalgia. As children, these stories acted as a survival guide to face the huge world we live in. As adults, these stories implore us to dive in and rediscover something about ourselves.

Below I’ve compiled a list of literature that I read either in my childhood or as an adult (through one of my English classes!), each with key takeaways that can help us navigate through life and its complexities. I encourage you to read them and find what is meaningful to you!

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon follows a young Chinese girl named Minli who lives with her parents in a poor village by Fruitless Mountain. Every evening, after a laborious day in the rice fields, Minli’s father tells a story. One evening, he tells the tale of the Old Man of the Moon who possesses the power to change a person’s fortune. Inspired by her father’s stories, along with her desire to help her family and village out of poverty, Minli ventures out of her home to seek this man. Thus begins her story.

What initially caught my attention with this novel was the utilization of Chinese folklore that, while seeming out of place at first, actually has an intricately-woven purpose to the story’s ending. If you have interest in learning about different cultures and find enjoyment in a journey, this novel will keep you glued to the pages until the end.

Takeaway: Find contentment in where you are and what you’ve done, but hope and work for change. After all…

“Impossible?” The goldfish man said, “Don’t you see? Even the fates written in the Book of Fortunes can be changed. How can anything be impossible?”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland begins on a warm summer day, with Alice reading books with her older sister. Suddenly she catches a glimpse of a White Rabbit in a waistcoat running away, exclaiming that he is late. He jumps down a rabbit hole, and following after him, Alice finds herself in the world of Wonderland which is full of creatures of all sizes that differ from her familiar.

This novel engages with a fascination of what lies underground, but what intrigued me was the instances of life or death situations that Alice finds herself in. These things aren’t commonly on a child’s mind, but in the unknowns of Wonderland, you must be aware of your surroundings to survive. If you like a protagonist who is full of sass, this novel is a great one to pick up! Alice strays away from the common characterization of girls at the time of the novel, being pure and obedient, so I loved reading it.

Takeaway: Our appreciation of life is contingent on our sense that it is ephemeral. You can only understand how precious life is if you understand how limited it is. So, make peace with your mortality.

“…for it might end, you know,’ said Alice to herself, ‘in my going out altogether, like a candle. I wonder what I should be like then?”’

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Set in the town of Avonlea, Anne of Green Gables starts with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert needing extra hands to do farm work on the Green Gables. The siblings decide to adopt an orphan boy to help and wait at the train station to pick him up. What they receive instead is an orphaned eleven-year-old girl named Anne Shirley.

With the protagonist being an orphan, I thought I would find myself faced with a character who is disobedient and wants to cause trouble because of various movies I had watched that portrayed orphans this way. Anne goes against this stereotype, being full of spirit and rebellious in a good way. I love how ambitious and unafraid she is. 

Takeaway: What marks you as different also makes you special. That’s why you have to find your voice and your style, whatever it may be, and proudly embrace it.

“It’s such a relief to talk when one wants to and not be told that children should be seen and not heard… And people laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?” said Anne.

Children’s books act as the foundation to the moral principles we stick by today. They have the power to transform who we are, and as we age, they act as markers for our growth and experience. No matter how old we get, we will never be too old for children’s books and there will always be an open portal into the fantasy world, waiting for us to step through it.

Kayla is currently a second-year studying English at UC Davis. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, dancing, and learning photography.
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