Read an Excerpt
by Judith Viorst
While I was reading the pages of this book, I found myself leafing through family photograph albums. I paused to examine a picture of my youngest son, Alexander, who had been immortalized at his sartorial worst. He wore two unmatched socks and a pair of untied sneakers. His hair was alarmingly tousled; his face was smudged. His shorts were droopy and wrinkled, and from them dangled not just one, but two torn pockets. And his T-shirt boldly displayed the bright-red signature of a recent spaghetti dinner.
I looked at that picture and winced, and then I shuddered, and then I sighed and then-all of a sudden-I started to laugh. "Neatness," I observed to myself, quoting a line from this oh-so-helpful collection, "was not one of the things he aimed at in life." Once again I had discovered, in a children's book, exactly what I needed.
I have been, all my life, a passionate lover of children's books-as a little girl; as a more-or-less adult woman; as a mother and grandmother; as an unpublished and, eventually (after eternities of rejection), published writer; and as a children's book editor. In my editing days-and perhaps it's still true, though I hope not-the children's book department was the patronized kid sister of the far more important, and self-important, adult book department, where, it was deemed, the serious action took place. I didn't-and don't-accept that point of view.
For I've always believed that, at their best, the language and the art of books for children are as good as it gets. At their best, the subjects treated in these books include almost all of our central human concerns. At their best, children's books offer insights we'll want to remember and ponder and savor and learn from and revel in. But you don't have to take my word for it; between the covers of this charming book are some of the countless treasures that writings for children offer to both kids and adults.
You will surely find words that speak to your condition. You may choose, for instance, to contemplate the solemnity of "Every passage has its price" or to let yourself be tickled by the deadpan humor of "It is helpful to know the proper way to behave, so one can decide whether or not to be proper." You may nod your head in agreement with the indisputable truth that "One doesn't contradict a hungry tiger," or with the quiet sagacity of "Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive." You may, when your husband is driving a tad too fast on the superhighway, observe between clenched teeth that "It often takes more courage to be a passenger than a driver." Or you may, like me, find words that will provide you with a cheering new perspective.
Ranging from the highly poetic to the matter of fact, WHAT THE DORMOUSE SAID tells us to choose freedom over safety, to get up when we're knocked down, to remember to take delight where we find it, to recognize what we can and cannot control, to treat people carefully,