“Keeping children rooted in nature is about many things: the science of good health, love of families, and importantly, the heartfelt poetry of the outdoor experience.” – NWF Action Report Article Titled: Where The Wild Things Are.
Most might remember reading this story as a child. It was one of my personal favorites, and after reading it again as an adult, I now understand its affect on so many levels. The aim of art in literature is to affect the reader to some degree. I can safely say that many of the books I read as a child deeply affected my view of the world, the natural world in particular. Fantasy or not, stories like White Fang, The Jungle Book, Stuart Little, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, Black Beauty, The Bear, Alice in Wonderland, James and The Giant Peach, The Tale of Desperaux, Watership Down, Christopher Robin and the 100 acre Wood, Dr. Doolittle, and thousands of others help to make young readers aware of life beyond humanity. I personally feel that that awareness fosters a deeper appreciation of life in general. I might still, from time to time, like to imagine that the little shrews who take up residence in my walls are sleeping in sardine-can beds and are spiffily attired with waistcoats and pocket watches, and even though, as an adult, I understand that their social structure and behavior is not that of human society, the idea that they have a societal structure of their own makes me not only appreciate them but helps me appreciate how they fit into this world we share. Maybe their wildness helps me to connect on a deeper level with my own. It fosters a sense of compassion for beings that are not like us. It helps us make a connection, however abstract, with the living breathing thing we call planet earth.
Where the Wild Things Are, the movie, is being released October 16th 2009 and in conjunction with that the National Wildlife Federation is launching their Where The Wild Things Are Campaign. According to the article: “Outdoor time for kids has decreased, on average, more than 50 percent, while their time spent inside plugged into electronic media has grown to more than six hours per day.”
This is a startling and sad state of affairs. We know this as writers because in order to write an effective story, we, in essence, must interpret our own personal experiences and our oftentimes tainted view of the world. Our world view is grounded in our real life experiences, and the words we put to paper are a reflection of that. How can we truly reflect anything of value in our art if our experiences are limited to virtual ones?
So, in honor of all wild things great, small, and make believe, let’s all pick up one of those books we loved as a child and go outside. Let's find a nice shady tree, an urban park, an inner city balcony where you can see the sky. How bout a state park, a community garden, the front stoop, or even our own back yard. Let's rediscover the world. Nature is everywhere, if you look for it. Let’s find it. Sit down on the wet grass and read that book again with the same wonderment you had as a child. Give a squirrel a nut, a pigeon a bread crumb. Show a stray cat some kindness. Whatever. Then pass that book along to a child. Reading opens up the world. Of course, that is just my humble skunk lovin’ opinion.
So tell us readers and authors: What was your favorite book as a child? A Book that had animals in it. I have so many favorites, but The Dr. Doolittle Adventure series by Hugh Lofting stands out to me over all the others, specifically, The Green Canary, which was published after his death.
Cheryl Anne Gardner
Movie art Copyright Warner Bros. Ent. Inc. 2009