C.S. Lewis once said, "No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."
I think it's a big mistake when our childhood books are forgotten about and left behind in our distant pasts. Have you discovered through experience that when we return to them years down the track, we often pick up a lot that we missed the first time around? It's almost as if we were paddling around in the shallows when we read them as children, but when we grow up, there is more depth to plumb. I believe children's books are not written solely for kids but for everyone.
I read Beverly Cleary's "Ramona the Pest" series at the age of eight or nine and found them okay. I related to the main character, Ramona, in some ways, although in others she was different to me. When I came to read them to my own kids, I was surprised by how thoroughly I enjoyed them, how I could relate to Ramona's parents, Mr and Mrs Quimby, and their struggles to bring up three girls on a low income. There was so much wisdom in them which I never realised when I was little. The same goes for Joyce Lankester Brisley's "Milly-Molly-Mandy" stories.
I re-read "Anne of Green Gables" and many more of Lucy Maud Montgomery's books to my daughter a few years ago. They'd been favourites I read over several times during my teens, and the same thing happened. I was surprised by humourous little bits which soared straight over my head at the time. For example, there's the fact that Anne had a school friend named Moody-Spurgeon McPherson. As a child, I had no idea who those two great evangelists were, so I missed the point when adult characters remarked, "That boy has a lot to live up to, with a name like that." I wouldn't have missed reading those books again for anything.
Just a few months ago, I re-read an Australian kids' book named "Captain Midnite" to my youngest son. It's about a naive teenaged bushranger. I found so much more to laugh at this second time round. Kids are funny, serious people who take so much comedy on face value. At least, that's what I discovered about myself when I read that book. It's such a lot of fun to re-visit old books with the added benefit of a more adult sense of humour.
Anyone who re-reads A. A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" stories is bound to get all sorts of significance and help he didn't before. The personality traits of each of the characters in the 100-Acre-Woods become more recognisable to us as people we know, including Pooh and his wise ways, even though he admits himself to be a 'Bear of Little Brain.'
Which children's books have you enjoyed just as much the second, third or fourth time around?
Paula Vince is the award-winning author of several novels set in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, where she lives. She enjoys sprinkling her stories with romance, mystery and suspense.