f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Diversion: the Wonder and Power of Story

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Monday, July 24, 2006

Diversion: the Wonder and Power of Story

In my spare time at home I read a fair amount of children's fiction. Some of it I read for myself, some out-loud to my children. One subtext that's stuck out to me lately in a couple of works is the meta-theme of the power of story, the power of words, the power of reading.

The books that spring first to mind (though I'm certain there are many more) are:

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Inkheart and Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

All five books cover completely different ground and genres but one thing they have in common is a reflexive examination of the power of books.

When I first noticed it, my gut reaction is that there was the slightest hint of desperation to this. We talk about the use of propaganda all the time and here these books are "selling" themselves, trying to coax little minds into drinking the Kool-Aid of reading. That's a cynical response and one I'm not overly proud of. And it dissippated almost instantly because the next thing to catch my attention was the enraptured face of my girls, sitting waiting to hear what a little mouse with big ears might do next.

The power of story to transport you isn't theoretical to children. It's obvious and immediate and above discussion. Of couse a mouse can become a knight. Of course a boy named Stanley can be pressed flat when a bulletin board falls on him. Of course a swan without a honk can learn to play trumpet. The world and what it can contain is endless.

So those themes on the glory and power of story...they aren't for the kids, I don't think. I think they're for the authors, or (occasionally) for the cranky sour-puss adult reader like me who dares to pick up the book. They're a declaration that says, "You know what? Bag it...I'm throwing my lot in with the kids. They had it right in the first place."