March 15, 2011

It has not been that long since my coming to know about great works of literature. I have never been a reader. I spent 35 years of my life avoiding books. I remember my High School English teacher telling our class that we could read the Cliffs Notes version of an assigned book because that would get us through what we needed to know.

In my 17 years serving preschool children, I have read many children's books. Many! But still, I lacked a tremendous amount of knowledge about and exposure to classic, quality literature. It has been about a year and a half since I have been introduced to a book list that continues to both delight and disappoint me. I say disappoint, because I am just a bit saddened that I missed out on these books in my earlier years. However, I am delighted that I have been introduced to them now and that I can share them with my children.

Let me introduce you to the REAL Bambi. A Life in the Woods by Felix Sulten.

(Ok, I will now make a confession. I let my son choose our next chapter book. We had a few lined up. And he chose this. And as he chose it, he used his best movie theater preview voice and said "Disney's Bambi." Yeah. Ouch. He has never seen the movie Bambi. Nor have we read Disney's version of Bambi. Obviously he has seen previews for Disney's version of Bambi on one of our DVD's. And that made him want to read it. But really, I am so glad it did. Because I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK. And we are only on the second chapter. Now don't get me wrong... I love Disney. LAND. But Disney has done some sad things to children's literature. And another confession: Until a year and a half ago, when I became introduced to a new kind of reading, I had NO idea there even was another version of Bambi. I thought it was a Disney original! Seriously.)

The text, in original form- not adapted, abridged, or retold, is from 1928. The illustrations from Barbara Cooney from 1970. My slightly hippie self is in love with the simple, earth tone illustrations of such woodsy delight.

We have only read two chapters so far. And after each chapter, Isaak is Narrating from our reading. I love hearing the story from his view point. What stands out to him and penetrates his little heart and mind. Each time we read, I feel like we have been transported:

"In early summer, the trees stood still under the blue sky, held their limbs outstretched and received the direct rays of the sun."

"Out of the earth came whole troops of flowers, like motley stars, so that the soil of the twilit forest floor shone with a silent, ardent, colorful gladness. Everything smelled of fresh leaves, of blossoms, of moist clods and green wood."

Isaak is 5 1/2. He sits attentively. Eagerly anticipating what will come next in the story. He sometimes will ask what a word means. Other times, he just listens and gets the whole of what is happening. He asks throughout the day if we can continue to read. That is what a good book is all about. It sucks you in. You do not want to put the book down. And as you read, you see everything. You are transported. In the thick of it. It is marvelous!

This is the forward from the book:

"Bambi is a delicious book. Delicious not only for children but for those who are no longer so fortunate. For delicacy of perception and essential truth I hardly know any story of animals that can stand beside this life study of a forest deer. Felix Sulten is a poet. He feels nature deeply, and he loves animals. I do not, as a rule, like the method which places human words in the mouths of dumb creatures, and it is the triumph of this book that, behind the conversation, one feels the real sensations of the creatures who speak. Clear and illuminating, and in places very moving, it is a little masterpiece." -John Galsworthy, 1928

If I haven't sold you on it, perhaps that did! READ THIS BOOK. :)


mygirl said...

jen, what a great post. i am guilty of reading and having disney books, but i find myself liking them less and wanting the real thing. i am excited to find this one and to read it to my kiddo's. love, christina

j e n n i f e r said...

Christina, We don't have any Disney books. But... I think I should clarify that original books like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, etc. would be fun finds to have. Especially vintage! But books that have been remade: The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book, Bambi, etc. have been seriously and sadly altered. Like I said... this is fairly new to me too. It has been a journey indeed. xox

Simple Life Journey said...

Ooooo, I want this book. And I also avoided books. It is amazing how much you learn when you are a parent and you are helping your children with homework. They don't know it but their mommy is being challenged as well. It's exciting. I feel like a really smart first grader.