Often forgotten childhood stories teach life-long lessons

Written By Chandni Shah, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

When we put away childish things of the past, one of the things to go are our books. We grow too old for them and start to read more challenging and longer works suited for our age. They hit the curb or a local Goodwill along with our too-small clothes and shoes, dusty unused toys and stuffed animals that took up their fair share of the bed. What we don’t realize is that we never actually “outread” these books, we carry the seemingly simple lessons they teach about life with us forever.

One of my favorite reads growing up was “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. A boy named Milo comes home from school one day and discovers that a mysterious tollbooth has appeared in his room, he drives through the tollbooth in an electric car only because he has nothing better to do. While driving through the peculiar lands of this new world ― the Doldrums, Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, the Valleys of Sound and Sight and the Mountains of Ignorance ― Milo realizes that life isn’t as dull as he once believed. Juster teaches us that when you stop to look at everything with careful sight, sound, touch and taste, living becomes a lot more interesting.

A book that almost everyone I know is familiar with is “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, following the story of a mischievous boy named Max. After his mother sends him to bed without dinner, Max’s imagination takes over and his bedroom transforms into a forest with an ocean that he sails across until he finds the Wild Things. Here, Max lets his anger take over and he becomes the king of the Wild Things, but he soon comes to realize that there’s no place like home. Max sails back home even though his anger persists so that he can be where someone loves him the most, his mother. Although Max is a young boy, everyone can relate to his anger and how sometimes we can let it get the best of us, but in the end all we want is to be loved.

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“The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, is another great read that one can carry with them throughout a lifetime. The narrator meets the Little Prince after crashing his plane into the Sahara desert and the Prince tells him how he left his own little planet because his rose lied to him, so he travels throughout the universe. After various encounters with adults on his journey, the Prince realizes the absurdity of adults and how they are consumed only by their work. Essentially, “The Little Prince” reminds us that the way we love someone makes them unique to us and that those who are superficial don’t really understand the important things in life.

All three of these books remind us in some way the important truths of human existence: dullness is caused by our own inability to experience the world, all of us in some way are a Wild Thing, and that we have our own unique rose that we live for. Most importantly, we must all find our own way, and as Juster said in “The Phantom Tollbooth,” “whether or not you find your own way, you’re bound to find some way. If you happen to find my way, please return it, as it was lost years ago. I imagine by now it’s quite rusty.”