I've just finished reading Enchanted Hunters: the power of stories in childhood by Maria Tatar and I'm feeling frustrated. The quotations and the blurb promise me that she will pin down, analyse and explain the magic of storytelling and the power of reading in children's lives. Hurray! I thought. Therein lies some questions I'd like answered. But it revealed nothing at all but rather repeated the purely obvious: stories allow children to explore situations and other emotions beyond their own experience and allow them to indulge their imaginations by plunging them into fantasy. Perhaps I have not read carefully enough and there's more substance to this than I'm seeing. She has interesting things to say about various books (especially about the child-centredness of Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss), and I enjoyed the part about how story-telling morphed into bed-time reading over the ages. There's also an entertaining appendix of quotations from different authors about how they first experienced reading. But on the whole, a disappointment, and I didn't follow Maria Tatar's explanation of why she used a quotation from Lolita for the title at all.
I come away with unanswered questions:
Why does the fantastic appeal to children? Why do they love magic and other worlds, time slips and aliens?
Why do many adults lose the taste for the fantastic? Do they gain something else? Is it to do with the fact that the whole world is less mysterious to them? Is it to do with the fact that they have learned to be critical and can no longer suspend disbelief?
Why do I still like to read children's books? Is this childish? Do I read them the same way as I did when I was a child?
Why do some children become so involved in stories? Or perhaps how? Do they feel part of the action? Or is observing enough? Why do reading children seem to get this all-encompassing involvement often, whereas I only occasionally reach this point with a book (I suspect there is a time-to-spare factor here!).
So here's my plan. I'm going to search out some books about reading, about how we read and why we read, and some books about children's books (or I could reread the dozen on my shelves whose contents I seem to have forgotten). And I'm going to think about it. Maybe the reason Maria Tatar didn't come up with any revelation is because there isn't any. So, more on this at a later date, but if you have any answers or can suggest any promising leads in my quest, let me know.