Tuesday, May 8th, 2012
This week the author of Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, passed away at age 83. To say his classic and most famous story is my favorite and most influential children’s book is no stretch of the imagination.
For Halloween last October, my son Jack was a sea otter thanks to that costume selling for 9 bucks on Amazon.com. But really, I hoped everyone would be reminded of the wolf costume that the protagonist Max wore in the book.
I remember that day in 1st grade back in 1987 during our weekly library hour, how Mrs. Mauldin read Where the Wild Things Are to our class for the first time.
Why was I so mesmerized by this weird and dark book about a boy and his monsters?
Somehow, part of it didn’t feel like a kids’ book. There was something almost PG-13 about it; though I couldn’t have known why at the time.
Now as a nostalgic 31 year-old dad who is ever-curious about the human subconscious, I see that Where the Wild Things Are allowed a child to experience (and experiment with) loneliness up until the final page of the story.
Up until the very end, Max banishes himself to a sort of forgotten hell in which he takes charge.
I get it now. What kid doesn’t feel left out of the “grown-up world” at times, wishing to be important enough to be in charge the way his or her parents are?
Through this bizarre and yet very realistic story, a child relates.
Today I saw I quote by Storm Jameson which best summarizes why Sendak’s beloved story is so special:
“Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed.”
Interestingly, the protagonist (and the reader) of Where the Wild Things Are experiences all these things in the story. I never thought of happiness as anything less than perceived joy.
But this new definition makes a lot more sense. And surely Maurice Sendak knew this when he penned the book.
He subliminally introduced real happiness to me through his adventurous story.
Like Max, I must feel deeply, think freely, risk life, and be needed. That is indeed what makes me happy.
And if I can dress funny and howl and dance in the forest with monsters in the process… even better.
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Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Jack loves reading. In other words, he loves looking at the pages of a book for the purpose of identifying the animals so that he can make their appropriate sounds.
The book he is currently obsessed over is The Beginner’s Bible; a children’s cartoon version of the stories in the Bible. Why does he insist of reading it all the way to daycare and back everyday? Because he’s just that spiritual of a toddler? Or…
To practice his animal sounds.
A couple of minutes into the car ride each day, I hear “Sssssss…”. That means Jack sees a picture of Satan, as a serpent, tempting Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit.
Five minutes later, it’s “Bzzzzzz…”. Yeah, that’s the Seven Plagues on Egypt; the gnats and lice to be exact.
I’ll hear various spurts of “Pffffttt…”. That would be Jack’s very impressive impression of what a camel sounds like: There are plenty of random pictures of men riding camels throughout the book.
Eventually I hear “bah-bah,” Jack’s version of a donkey, which means Jesus is making his triumphal entry into Jerusalem… on a donkey, of course.
And then for the rest of the book, there aren’t so many animals anymore; mainly just bearded men in robes talking to each other.
Each time Jack gets to this point, he just starts laughing.
It took me a solid week to figure out what was so funny. I’m pretty sure it’s because Jack has never seen a man in real life with a big bushy beard.
So he’s laughing at the brown sheep’s butts on men’s faces. Or, beards, as we recognize them in the non-cartoon world.
Yes, my toddler son leads his own Bible study twice a day in the back seat of my car. Technically.
Welcome to Back Seat Baptist Church.
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Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
If we were restricted to only see the world in terms of science, where would love fit into that picture? I guess it could be said that love, along with all other human emotions, is ultimately necessary for not only procreation but also the desired human interactions that help move us forward as a society. Carpenter ants and sea horses do not need to feel anything emotionally in order to survive and multiply, but we humans, being much more complicated, are not devoid of personalities or the need to feel needed by others. We need love.
So somewhere in the evolution from fish to ape to man, love randomly showed up in the genes and proved to be fit for survival? It sounds pretty miraculous to me…
That’s why, along with the Jewish actor/political commentator Ben Stein (The Wonder Years and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and the Christian actor/evangelist Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains), I am a devout advocate of Intelligent design.
In other words, I reject the popular and politically correct theory of evolution and/or The Big Bang Theory. Instead, I believe that man was literally created by God, from dust, as it is explained in the book of Genesis- in six literal 24 hour days.
What about dinosaurs, though? After all, men could not have survived alongside vicious, giant lizards.
Interestingly, The Book of Genesis explains that in the beginning, God gave the herbs and plants for the people to eat. It wasn’t until ten extremely long generations later (people lived centuries long back then) when Noah and his family exited the ark that God told mankind A) that animals would begin fearing man and therefore, B) that people should now starting eating animals as part of their diet.
Therefore, I believe for ten long generations, people and animals of all kinds coexisted, all living on a vegetarian diet. Radically, I believe the world is around 10,000 years old; not millions or billions. That’s just the Cliff Notes version of Intelligent design. Feel free to read another blog post I’ve written on it; or google “Intelligent design” to learn just how “out there” I really am.
Simply put, I believe that love is just simply too miraculous to have randomly showed up on its own. I believe that love did not evolve, but instead was created and given as a gift from God to man; so that man would share it. For me, thinking about love from a scientific perspective only points me to one simple idea: love is part of God’s intelligent design.
The love I share for my wife and son comes from God; not chance.
It has never been more appropriate than right now for me to give away a free copy of the brand-new, just released, children’s book, Smack Dab in the Middle of God’s Love.
The book seems to encompass the artistic sophistication of a classic Caldecott Medal winning book along with the multi-ethnic oneness of Sesame Street. It’s a nostalgic return to the good children’s books I read as a child growing up in the Eighties, but with a modern accent. I believe this book would especially be ideal for parents who have not yet raised their children in a particular religious household, but who are now more interested in doing so; the book would serve as a great transition into teaching them about God’s love.
Now, as to the one lucky winner who will be mailed a copy of this book, just be the first person to leave a comment on this post telling me how many weeks old my son Jack was when we gave him his first haircut. Make sure you send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name and mailing address so I’ll know where to mail it.
Need a hint? Use the search box on the right side of this screen.
Excerpt from the back cover of Smack Dab in the Middle of God’s Love:
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“Willie Juan and Ana’s home is always full of neighborhood children, laughter, and love. One day, while enjoying Ana’s most delicious sopapillas, Willie Juan asks a most curious question:
‘Little friends, what is one thing you think Abba will ask you someday when you are in heaven?’.
Through their answers, Willie Juan’s guidance, and a few giggles, the children learn that God cares about the details of their lives and that all good gifts- from hummingbirds to homemade sopapillas- come from Him.
This book will help kids discover how deep and wide and endless is the love of God. A love so BIG that no matter what, they will always be smack dab in the middle of it.”
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Deep Thoughts, Must Read, Nostalgia, Spirituality, Storytelling