Characters from kids' books who totally prepared us for adulthood
We were so sad to hear Norman Bridwell, the author of Clifford the Big Red Dog, passed away last week. The creator of the super-sized, sweet, red dog was a brilliant and prolific children’s author whose work taught us that being different is totally OK, great even. Clifford maybe had an unusual growth spurt, but his family still loved him and taught him how to use his size to make a huge difference in people’s lives. Clifford still holds a special place in our hearts today, if we’re being honest.
In honor of the big red dog, we decided to revisit the other imaginative characters we STILL love and think about as adults. Here are some more books from our childhood that taught us majorly important lessons we still carry around with us today.
It didn’t matter when you grew up, Winnie-the-Pooh (and his besties) were always around and their messages were always timely. Pooh’s carefree attitude and his deep connection to his friends taught us some serious lessons about being there for the people we love, and not letting weird insecurities and miscommunications (or honey) get in the way.
The BFG is the Big Friendly Giant we all wanted to be BFFs with. While all of Dahl’s books were great, the BFG is by far his most lovable character. He and Sophie capture dreams as if they were butterflies, “whizzpop” for the queen, and generally get up to whimsical chaos. The takeaway was that friendships are unexpected and you never know who’s going to end up being your bestie. And that’s held true to this day.
Madeline has been captivating kids since it was first published in 1939. It’s kind of crazy that this little girl still speaks to kids today. The story of a young girl living in a Parisian school with eleven other equally well-dressed pals is gorgeous enough to make any girl want to go to boarding school, or at least travel to France. And the whole appendix thing will be burned in our brains forever. She taught us to be brave when we’re sick, but also that there’s a thing in our bodies called an appendix and it sometimes needs to come out. Good to know.
“Once there was a tree. . . and she loved a little boy.” Can you even get through the first page of this book without crying? It’s hard. Remember how tight the little boy and the tree were, and how the little boy grew up and began to ask for more of the tree than she could give? Oh god, our hearts just exploded. That really generous tree taught us to be cautious with other people’s hearts, and that taking advantage of the unconditional nature of love comes with regrets and, let’s just say it, guilt.
When Curious George is taken from the jungle by the man in the yellow hat, he has to learn about a whole new world. And there’s so much to be curious about. No joke. While the monkey’s curiosity wreaks havoc on the city, it also works its way into the heart of every child and adult who’s ever wondered what would happen if they treated life a little bit differently. CG is still a great dude to turn to when you find yourself in a new, weird situation you need to just go with.
Stuart Little is a tiny mouse with a huge love of adventure. When his friend, a bird named Margalo, disappears, he leaves his human family for the first time in his life to find her. Little is really good at reminding us you’re never too small to make a big difference in the lives of those around you.
Ella Enchanted is the book we still turn to every time we’re feeling sad or nostalgic. The feminist fairly tale follows Ella, a young girl cursed with obedience. The cool thing about this book is that it encouraged us to actually challenge the lessons we were being taught and to really think for ourselves. Every time we read it, we’re reminded of the importance of standing up ourselves, and inspired to continue fighting for our beliefs.
Where the Wild Things Are was first released over fifty years ago and it’s still as imaginative, haunting and gorgeous as ever. When Max is sent to bed without dinner, he puts on his wolf suit and his room magically turns into a forest that allows him to continue his adventures with a charming cast of wild things by his side. This story redefines imagination, and Max reminds us all to take a walk on the wild side from time to time. Max also taught us that being alone with our brains is sometimes the BEST.
Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was a revelation. Finally, somebody put to words what it feels like when the world seems to be against you for no good reason. Alexander went to sleep with gum in his mouth and now there’s gum in his hair. The cat slept with his brother and a bunch of other annoying things happened throughout the day and really, kinda pissed him off. And you know what? It’s OK. It’s just a day and days end. And then very good days happen too. Hello, life lesson.
Guess who taught us about confidence and how to see the weirdly, wonderful silliness in everything? That’s right, Eloise. She may not have had the most conventional home life but it was hers and she obviously loved it. And seriously, she was such a bosslady.