Sunday, January 08, 2006

I really enjoyed the library search activity we did last week. It is interesting how much children's literature has changed since I was a child. Yet some books are timeless and have endured. One of my favorite books from my childhood was one that was read to my father when he was a boy and in turn was read to me. The book is called, "At the Back of the Northwind"by George MacDonald and was first published in 1871.

It is the magical story of a poor stable boy named Diamond who lives in a hayloft in Victorian London. One night he is visited by a beautiful, etheral woman known as the Northwind through his window. Every night she would magically whisk him away on incredible journeys teaching him about herself. Later she would take him to the beautiful, serene country that lies on the back of the Northwind.

I remember lying in bed listening to my Dad read this book to me every night and imagining flying to strange and distant lands. It wasn't until I read this book again years later in a first year children's literature class in university that I realized what it was really about. The book deals with child death in a way that avoids somberness. George MacDonald was a church minister and the book is clearly has religious overtones. Through the eyes of an innocent child MacDonald moved me by his account of dying as a process of learning and death as a journey to a better place. A conversation l near the end of the book when Diamond falls ill and agrees to go to the land at the back of the Northwind still sticks with me whenever I hear horrible stories of children dying on the news,

"Well, please, Northwind, you are so beautiful, I am quite ready to go with you."

To which she replies, "You must not be so ready to go with everything beautiful all at once, Diamond

"But what's beautiful can't be bad. You're not bad Northwind?"

"No, I'm not bad. But sometimes beautiful things grow bad by doing bad, and it takes some time to spoil thier beauty. So little boys may be mistaken if they go after things because they are beautiful".

"Well, I will go with you because you are beautiful and good too".

"Ah, but there's another thing Diamond. What if I should look ugly without being bad-- look ugly myself because I am making ugly things beautiful? What then?"

"I don't quite understand you, North Wind. You tell me what then."

"Well, I will tell you. If you see me with my face all black, don't be frightened. If you see me flapping wings like a bat's, as big as the whole sky, don't be frightened. If you hear me raging ten times worse than Mrs Bill, the blacksmith's wife--you must believe that I am doing my work. Nay, Diamond, if I change into a serpent or a tiger, you must not let go your hold on me, for my hand will never change in yours if you keep a good hold. If you keep a hold, you will know who I am all the time, even when you look at me and can't see me the least like the North Wind. I may look something awful. Do you understand?"

"Quite well," said little Diamond.

"Come along, then," said North Wind, and disappeared behind the mountain of hay.

Diamond crept out of bed and followed her.


At 6:35 PM, Blogger Tammyslitblog said...

Hi Curt, Great blog! I can't wait to read this book, it sounds really good. PS you have to show me how to put pictures on my blog!

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Deanne said...

Impressive first entry Curt! You have inspired me to check out this book now. I find it very interesting to see what we all read as children. it is kind of cool to see that some of us read similar novels, and some of us read something a bit different, which has inspired me to want to go and read more children's books!!
And by the way good job on figuring out the picture on your profile!!

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Sophia said...

Hey Curt,
Wow - it sounds like a really good story! I can't get over when your story was published - 1871! It sounds like a great read. I would like to read it one day.
I really like the picture on your blog!

At 9:13 PM, Blogger JennD said...

Hi Curt,

It is neat that this book was written so long ago and children still like it. Do you remember how old you were when your Dad read it to you? Do you have a copy? Could you bring it one day if you do so I could have a look at it?


At 5:31 PM, Blogger Curt said...

Thanks for the comments. I'm glad that I've encouraged afew people to check out this amazing book. Like Deanne said it's really neat to get exposed to so many different books that we might have otherwise never even heard of. I know that has been the case for me while I have been reading other people's blogs.
As for Jenn's question I think I was about seven or eight when my Dad read me this book. Of course I never picked up on the true meaning of it back then, it was just a magical story. I really recommend reading it to your kids if you don't mind the strong religious connotations like the existence of heaven or some kind of afterlife. I will bring my copy to class this week if anyone else is interested in taking a look.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

Curtis, that is an awesome first entry. I also have been intrigued to look into this book and read it one day. Thanks for sharing.

At 10:00 AM, Blogger Chirtie said...

Geotrge MacDonald wrote some beautiful stories. I have read some other things by him (not your story though, I'll have to look for that one!) and when I took a children's lit class we studied The Princess and Curdie. Revisiting that story that I loved as a child was an interesting experience! There was a lot of meaning in the story I had missed when I read it the first time!

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Tricia said...

Hey Curt! Good job on your blog, it's not so hard is it! I agree with you that literature has definitely changed since we were kids but I think that it's also nice to see that the books that we did read as a younger student are still widely available. I know that, especially with me working at a bookstore, it's nice to see kids these days take interest in the books of our youth.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Cathy said...

Wow curt you really lit a fire with this book.

I liked how you included the dialogue, it really helped illustrate how important text can be in creating connections with a book experience.



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