Last year I made a resolution that I would only read books in Spanish. I had just moved to Mexico and was determined to perfect the Spanish language. The goal of only reading Spanish books was a big one, but perhaps not so hefty as attempting to ‘perfect’ the language. Over a year later I am still not quite there, my spanish is passable but far from the real ‘p’ word I was aiming for… but I did power through over 10 novels in Spanish during 2014. At the time I thought that was the big tick – reading books in another language. But the real learning from my year long resolution came in early January, when I was ready to pick up my first English book in over a year.
I happened to be away for the weekend staying in a tiny town in the middle of Mexico and stumbled upon a book in English on the bookshelf. When I say tiny, I mean the town comprised of 100 inhabitants, who were spread over four generations and all related. So it was actually quite amazing that there happened to be a book on the shelf in English at all. Naturally I picked it up and dived straight in.
The book was James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl. A story I was familiar with, but had not read or even thought about in over two decades. It is a unique and imaginative story about a boy called James who, surprise, surprise, has an adventure inside a giant peach. There is magic, talking insects, flying peaches and a dramatic arrival in New York. I was surprised with how absorbed I was in the story, how it reminded me of what it was like to be a kid – when you question things, and don’t construct your answers built on past experiences and accumulated knowledge. I felt a dormant part of my brain come alive as I read the life learnings from the view of the Old-Green-Grasshopper and saw the magical components of James’ adventure be painted so vividly. Not only did I love being reminded that there is so much more to this world than humans but that also ears on the side of your head is not the norm – grasshoppers have them on their stomach and for crickets they are on their legs – and that on average centipedes have 42 legs not 100.
I feel like so much of what I normally read; biographies, business books, classics, historical fiction and even most Man Booker Prize winners, I do so with the purpose of learning something specific. I want to better understand the person, the culture, the economy or the theory it centres around. But with James and the Giant Peach, I had no desired outcome. I just read the book, because it was the only thing in my first language available. And it was bloody fabulous! Had there been other options to choose from I am sure I would have selected many other titles before picking up this classic Roald Dahl kids’ book. But reading something short, easy, creative and a little twisted made me smile and feel inspired. After a whole year of stretching what I thought was all my brain cells to decipher my Spanish novels, I found some new ones reading this children’s book. So this year I am going to make it a priority to read more kids’ books. To read with no other purpose than seeing the world through the creative eyes of a kid again, and keep me wondering about the world and all its’ possibilities. Maybe you should try it too?
“My dear young fellow,’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper said gently, ‘there are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven’t even started wondering about yet.”
Great and surprising read Sarah! Make sure Alice in Wonderland and Chronicles of Narnia go on your list for this year 🙂
Thanks Sue. Will definitely return to those books also – good suggestions 🙂
Great mindpath Sar. Wonder why it was a surprising read?