Books for the King

The son’s brisk questions were being met with sluggish answers and were wrong to boot. He looked at me with concern and said, “Ma! Are you okay?” 

“I feel like I need to read 3 fiction books back-to-back to start feeling myself again!” I moaned. The cuppa coffee wasn’t doing its job. I knew I had a long day of meetings, planning, production issues, and more news trickles along the way before that happy dream could be realized. 

What happened next should not have surprised me in the least, for that child has a knack for soothing frayed souls. He ran away at top speed and I went about lapping my coffee like a cat licking its milk out of the saucer on a cloudy morning.

After a few moments he tumbled into the room carrying three Dr Seuss books. “Don’t worry, I can read it to you for 2 minutes.” he said and proceeded to read from Yertle The Turtle and Other Stories.

He could not have selected a more apt book for the times  if he had thought about current world trends towards dictatorship and decline of large democracies, cross-referenced  it with philosophies on power and ambition etc. 

Yertle the Turtle was the king of the Sala-ma-Sond pond, but as often happens with power, he wanted more, and then some more. Maybe a really high throne would help him thought Yertle. So, he summoned some turtles on which he could perch himself . Yertle thought that the higher his throne, the greater he was. Everything in his eyesight could be his, couldn’t it?

Soon, a cow, a farmhouse and a blueberry bush wasn’t enough for the great Yertle the Turtle. More and more turtles scrambled, while Mack – the poor turtle at the bottom of the pile struggled. Mack’s complaints meant nothing. Yertle could see butterflies and birds, but what he really wanted was to get up there with the moon. 

In a fitting end to the story, the dictatorial Yertle meets his nemesis with Mack’s inadvertent burping. The pile of turtles totter and collapse sending Yertle crashing into the muddy swamps below. Yertle the Turtle learns his lesson. 

I know we ask of no formal training for politicians: there are no politician licenses, no courses one has to complete to take up public office, but I really think there should be a set of children’s books that they all have to read and re-read as refreshers every year in order to stay in office. We could call it the Butter Battle Course.

I’d definitely add these three titles to the course.

  • Yertle the Turtle and other stories – By Dr Seuss. (It even has a story about unbearable braggarts meeting their match in a humble worm who is trying to just till the soil underneath without the incessant brag-fests disrupting him)
  • Louis XIV – the King of Sheep – By Oliver Tallec ( A beautiful tale illustrating how Louis I the sheep became a king – the wind rolled a crown to him, and the same wind blew the crown away from his head)
  • The Fate of Fausto – By Oliver Jeffers ( This tale takes a megalomaniac’s obsession with ruling everything he sees including mountains, rivers, and sheep until he meets his match in the great ocean.

Children of Stories

Fresh smells of laundry detergent wafted up from the warm pile surrounding me on the bed. Despite the many piles that needed folding, I felt a strange sense of gratitude for a chore that allowed me to sit on the bed for a few minutes while folding them. (My commute doesn’t always accord me the ability to sit, my days are hectic, and my meals erratic –  Yes! I was feeling benign and contented with this.) 

Every time I sit with the laundry, my mind climbs the Faraway Tree. How often I think of Dame Wash-a-lot of the Magic Faraway Tree? I don’t have the satisfaction of pouring bucketfuls of water from my perch high above in the trees on certain heads, of course, but one cannot ask for everything in this world. 

The_Magic_Faraway_Tree
Attribute author: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3693995

The son frisked onto the bed smelling like the fragrant soap in the bathroom after his long shower in which a number of valiant battles were fought.

Today’s battle was a long and strenuous one, but Iron Man had emerged victorious after throwing Thanos into the Deep Trench of Despair (I shudder to think of where I will actually find the action figure).

 

My own little Iron Man was full of the milk of human kindness that Tony Stark said was required in this world, and said “Shall I help?”

I thought for a moment, smiled at him, and  said, “Sure, but I wish I could read with you though!” 

“Okay, I’ll read to you,” said he and bounded out. He came back with a few picture books clutched in his hands. 

His choice of books for the day were just what was required for a spot of laundry folding.

Pen – By Christopher Myer

IMG_3910

My Pen, brings out what we wish we could do with our own imaginations. His pen fights battles, tucks elephants in tea cups, sails over imaginary oceans, captures gory wars while appealing to our humanity. The book is beautifully illustrated in black & white, and every now and then, the son stopped to show me a particularly appealing one, and we both admired the pictures. 

His second book, A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers, was an equally worthy choice. A child goes to to say how she likes to think of herself in terms of the books she has read. 

This book reminded me of a book, B-O-O-K by David Miles and Illustrated by Natalie Hoops,  that we look at every now and then. A beautiful meditation on the word, B-O-O-K. Every illustration takes us deeper and deeper into the different worlds books open up for us. The worlds that never really leave us, worlds that teach us something every time we enter it, worlds that refresh us just with the memory of it, worlds where we wish we can live in.

IMG_8731

Dame Wash-a-lot smiled down at me from her treetop, and I giggled. The son looked quizzical and I told him about her character and how certain characters stay with you long after you stopped reading books about them. Dame Wash-a-lot who lives in the Magic Faraway Tree in the Enchanted Wood is there when I take care of the laundry; the silly Saucepan Man with his Pots and Pans  is there when I am tumbling around with my own set of pots and pans in the kitchen; Moon Face is there when I see the benign face of the moon on the evenings I do myself the favor of raising my eyes heavenwards and admiring the moon muttering to myself about Ceraunophilia (love of the moon).

“Like my Avengers and super-heroes are there with me!” said the son. 

“Dame Wash-a-lot would have socked Thanos with her soapy water with half the noise you made in there!” I said, and we dissolved into a fresh set of giggles again discussing the strange noises during the heat of the shower battles.

Maybe we are Children of Stories.

The laundry took double the time it usually takes, but how enjoyable the whole task became?!