Wednesday Quotes
The Land of Storybooks
November 19, 2014

At evening when the lamp is lit,
Around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home and talk and sing,
And do not play at anything.

Now, with my little gun, I crawl
All in the dark along the wall,
And follow round the forest track
Away behind the sofa back.

There, in the night, where none can spy,
All in my hunter’s camp I lie,
And play at books that I have read
Till it is time to go to bed.   …                      Robert Louis Stevenson

The scene is a picture of peace. A child goes about his way, secure in the presence of his parents. The parents talk and sing, maybe even do some hand-work. Together. Nothing takes them away, or apart; not even their own worries or concerns. Anchored in that union, the child is free to wander—into foreign lands, even into danger. He’s always at home, no matter where he goes.

This child’s simple yet pressing needs are fulfilled, right here at home. This experience, this reality, he will carry with him the rest of his life.

The land of storybooks should not be in storybooks alone. Some children would give anything to have just one such evening. What children want, and need, can seem so far away; yet it is close at hand. Our homes can be the land of storybooks. Such is within our power. And it needs to be done, for the sake of our children. And for own sake too.

R.L Stevenson (1850-1894) is the great Scottish author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, A Child’s Garden of Verses, and other classics.

Illustration by Margaret Tarrant

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  1. Such beautiful musings! Thank you for the tears they inspired. “A Child’s Garden of Verses”,l I believe – and a story of my childhood. Didn’t realize how important it was. Thank you!

  2. Thank you Ginger. I’m often amazed at just how much is going on in the writings of R.L. Stevenson.

  3. Dr. Cuddeback, was it you who mentioned in an Institute of Catholic Culture lecture that the two Greek words for “home” were directly related to the table and the hearth? The unity and health, in all aspects, of a family does seem to revolve around these two places and their activities.

    Why is imagination so important for the growth and development of children? I just realized that I’ve accepted it as a given for a long time.

    1. Great issue, Josemaria. Just a quick thought here: Aristotle is very clear that how we imagine the world fundamentally affects how we understand and think about it. Now the power of reason in children is of course less developed than in adults, and so in them the role of imagination is even greater.

      1. So imagination is a proving grounds for the mind? It is practice for reason in a developed mind? Is there a specific value in fantastic or unrealistic imagination, such as a young boy imagining he’s a flying tyrannosaurus in space shooting lasers out of his eyes?

  4. I can attest to the fact that a “prodigal” can only come home if there is a home to which he can return. When our son retuned after a few rocky years away, he said that the security, warmth and memories that wept over him as he entered his childhood home was all he needed to realize that he was home to stay.

    1. That’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Thank you, Dr. Cuddeback. This brings back the memories of my own childhood. We mainly heated our house with a wood stove and it became the gathering place of our home. Looking back, it really was the center of our home in so many ways. How many evenings we sat there to pray, read books, or just talk. Looking back, those evenings really were a cornerstone for security. Thank you for recalling that as I pray to pass on the same security to my children.

  6. Thank you very much Rosemary for that beautiful remembrance.