What the Dormouse Said: Lessons for Grown-ups from Children's Books

What the Dormouse Said: Lessons for Grown-ups from Children's Books


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This one-of-a-kind collection reminds weary adults not to lose sight of the values and virtues they learned as kids. Here are over three hundred quotations from over two hundred well-loved children's books, such as Charlotte's Web, Peter Pan, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Eloise, Sounder, Number the Stars, and Goodnight Moon, organized by topic, among them Acceptance, Goodness, Family Woes, and Growing Old. On Silence: "I assure you that you can pick up more information when you are listening than when you are talking."--E. B.White, The Trumpet of the Swan. On Reverence: "Dying's part of the wheel, right there next to being born. . . . Being part of the whole thing, that's the blessing."--Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting.

With clever illustrations from Pierre Le-Tan, here is a book to share with a friend or keep by your own bedside. It's the perfect gift for your sister, your mother, your brother, your nephew, your kid's teacher, your daughter away at college, your son in the Navy, your mailman, your priest, for the old lady next door, or for the baby just born. Most importantly, give it to yourself. It will help you remember why you loved reading in the first place.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781565124516
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 10/28/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 810,669
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 6.25(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Amy Gash edits books for grown-ups and lives with her family in New Jersey.

Pierre Le-Tan has illustrated many books for children and adults. His work has appeared in leading magazines and newspapers, including the New Yorker, GQ, Glamour, the Atlantic Monthly, and Rolling Stone.

Judith Viorst is the author of twenty-five books, including Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and the New York Times best-seller Necessary Losses. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband.

Read an Excerpt


by Judith Viorst

While I was reading the pages of this book, I found myself leafing through family photograph albums. I paused to examine a picture of my youngest son, Alexander, who had been immortalized at his sartorial worst. He wore two unmatched socks and a pair of untied sneakers. His hair was alarmingly tousled; his face was smudged. His shorts were droopy and wrinkled, and from them dangled not just one, but two torn pockets. And his T-shirt boldly displayed the bright-red signature of a recent spaghetti dinner.

I looked at that picture and winced, and then I shuddered, and then I sighed and then-all of a sudden-I started to laugh. "Neatness," I observed to myself, quoting a line from this oh-so-helpful collection, "was not one of the things he aimed at in life." Once again I had discovered, in a children's book, exactly what I needed.

I have been, all my life, a passionate lover of children's books-as a little girl; as a more-or-less adult woman; as a mother and grandmother; as an unpublished and, eventually (after eternities of rejection), published writer; and as a children's book editor. In my editing days-and perhaps it's still true, though I hope not-the children's book department was the patronized kid sister of the far more important, and self-important, adult book department, where, it was deemed, the serious action took place. I didn't-and don't-accept that point of view.

For I've always believed that, at their best, the language and the art of books for children are as good as it gets. At their best, the subjects treated in these books include almost all of our central human concerns. At their best, children's books offer insights we'll want to remember and ponder and savor and learn from and revel in. But you don't have to take my word for it; between the covers of this charming book are some of the countless treasures that writings for children offer to both kids and adults.

You will surely find words that speak to your condition. You may choose, for instance, to contemplate the solemnity of "Every passage has its price" or to let yourself be tickled by the deadpan humor of "It is helpful to know the proper way to behave, so one can decide whether or not to be proper." You may nod your head in agreement with the indisputable truth that "One doesn't contradict a hungry tiger," or with the quiet sagacity of "Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive." You may, when your husband is driving a tad too fast on the superhighway, observe between clenched teeth that "It often takes more courage to be a passenger than a driver." Or you may, like me, find words that will provide you with a cheering new perspective.

Ranging from the highly poetic to the matter of fact, WHAT THE DORMOUSE SAID tells us to choose freedom over safety, to get up when we're knocked down, to remember to take delight where we find it, to recognize what we can and cannot control, to treat people carefully,

Table of Contents

Foreword by Judith Viorst

What I Learned from Children's Books

Faith and Courage


Imagination and Adventure


Love and Friendship

Practical Musings

Character and Individuality

Family Woes


Eating Habits




More Practical Musings

Greed, Envy, Pride, and Sloth

Songs and Stories

Growing Wise


Hidden Truths


Growing Old

Index by Books

Acknowledgments and Permissions

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