Now that summer has officially arrived, I’ve seen numerous blogs, magazine articles, and Facebook posts about the nostalgic memories of being a kid. Catching fireflies, doing cart wheels barefoot on the lawn, eating melting popsicles in the hot sun, canoeing on the lake, running through the sprinkler, making parachutes out of bed sheets–things that remind one of his or her fleeting youth.
As a nerdy book worm, I connect to my inner child through novels, especially adult literature with a child protagonist. I’m drawn to these books because, if written well, they capture the essence and wonder of being a child. They evoke memories and feelings of a world unguarded. A time when our interactions were nuanced with raw emotions, unclouded intuition and silent observation. We rapidly absorbed life as children and everything looked sharp and clear.
My hands-down favorite adult novel with a child’s point of view is To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee). Scout, her brother Jem, and her friend Dill, were my heroes. I wanted them to be my neighbors. I wanted my father to be Atticus Finch. I even wanted some of the mystery of a Boo Radley in my life. Every few years I have to re-read To Kill A Mockingbird just to revel in its greatness and re-live the heavy topics of racism, rage, injustice, and the poignant loss of innocence from a child’s perspective.
There are volumes of great adult literature out there with child protagonists, like Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain), The Runaway (Terry Kay), Atonement (Ian McEwan) and my new favorite Hardscrabble Road (George Weinstein), just to name a few.
It takes a special skill to write adult themes from a child’s eye view. Unlike children’s literature, in which young characters and story lines are normally more direct, adult literature can feature a child’s point of view and the deeper concepts within the story can remain esoteric. The complexities don’t have to be spelled out and your own adult mind can bridge the gaps. When I’m deep into a novel like this, I sense that the author’s own childhood was filled with a jumble of impactful impressions that make their way into the story.
All my close friends know I have a very strong inner child. And if they are my close friends, they also have a strong inner child, and that’s why we have an enduring bond. Their inner child may not be as book-wormy as mine, but that’s okay as long as they are game for catching fireflies, doing cart wheels barefoot on the lawn, eating melting popsicles in the hot sun, canoeing on the lake, or running through the sprinkler with me.