Monday, 3 August 2009

When Thinking "Nothing's the Matter" Is Necessary to Live

“Milk in the Batter! Milk in the Batter! We Bake Cake! And Nothing’s the Matter!" That’s the refrain of In the Night Kitchen, one of two children’s books that Yann Martel is sending today to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The other one is Where the Wild Things Are, also by Maurice Sendak.

The occasion is the 61st in Martel’s continuing campaign to provide Harper with some good bedtime reading, and, not incidentally, the birth of the first child of Martel and his partner Alice Kuipers.

Both books are children’s classics, and I’d be surprised if the Harper household didn’t have them at one time, if they don’t still. Nevertheless, the books are an opportunity for Martel to muse about the importance of books to children. An adult whose imagination has not been stimulated in childhood is “less useful to society because incapable of coming up with the new ideas and new solutions that society needs. A skill is a narrow focus of knowledge, a single card in a deck. Creativity is the hand that plays the cards. Hence, once again, the importance of children’s literature.”

Very true. There’s also an important message in the silliness of the “Milk in the Batter” refrain. Small children also need to think that no matter how scary the moment is, everything will turn out all right.

That is clearly not true, of course. Horrible things happen, cement blocks fall from tall buildings, wars break out, crops fail. Children will learn that soon enough, but like all of us, they need to believe on one level that “nothing’s the matter” in order to go to sleep, to try new things, to love, to live.

Welcome to the world, little Theo, by the way. You’ll find it an interesting place. Your parents, I'm sure, will do their best to make see that you grow up confident that it will all turn out all right.


patàmodeler said...

Votre billet est très touchant, merci Mary.

Je ne connais pas vos goûts musicaux, donc je ne sais pas pourquoi j'ai pensé à vous en réécoutant une pièce de La Cor de la plana (avec un accent grave sur le o de Cor) ce matin. C'est un choeur marseillais tout simplement magique que j'ai découvert hier soir tout à fait par hasard aux Francofolies. Écoutez la chanson Fanfarneta:

realtor elli said...

This article just totally made my day. Hilarious. I want to know how PM Harper will react on getting those books.

Best, Elli.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Well, seeing as how Harper (or his honchos) have only replied to three of the 61 book packages, he probably won't react at all. But I'm glad you like the story, Elli.

And, as I said on your blog, Patricia, loved the group!