When Bob Thirsk, the Canadian astronaut, was in space, the thing he missed most was reading bedtime stories to his children. Bedtime stories! Oh, how I miss them. Cuddling with my youngest stepson, my niece and nephew, and the children of my closest friends.
You know the routine: children become attached to certain books and want us to read them over and over again, often on the same night! I know the classic "Goodnight Moon," and the more recent "Love You Forever" and "Oi, Get Off Our Train" by heart.
But what about my own childhood? The stories my parents read to me? What do I remember about them, and how have they influenced my life?
The Little Engine That Could
I showed my copy of this book to my niece recently and she shrugged with indifference, but it played a major role in my growing up. I credit the idea behind it -- that we can accomplish almost anything if we just keep going -- as hugely influential in this writer's life. Friends have even chosen Chumbawamba's hit, "Tubthumping" -- with its immortal line, "I get knocked down, but I get up again" -- as my theme song.
The Princess and the Pea
I adored the princess in this Hans Christian Anderson tale who was so sensitive that she could feel a pea through a stack of mattresses, thereby proving that she was, indeed, a princess. Today she'd be called high maintenance, but to me she's exceptional.
Especially "The North Wind and the Sun." Remember? It's about a competition between the two, to see who can make a man take off his cloak. Guess who wins, big old bluster or warm, old sun?
I was going to ask if anyone else remembered this one, since we've long since lost our copy. But then I found it on Amazon! It's about an ingenious adult's way of coping with children who won't do things grownups are forever after them to do -- like clean their ears (as I recall, she ends up growing radishes in one child's ears to prove her point). Upside-down house, gentle humour, creative thinking. What's not to love?
Which bedtime stories do you love -- either the ones you shared with little ones or those from your own youth? And are parents now cradling Kindles or iPads in bed with their children? Are there pictures, too? Can you hold it up and read over top of it, like you can with books? And is there a market for bedtime stories for grown-ups like us? To soothe or inspire us, and so to sleep?
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