This is Sadie: Don't let The Nothing swallow up your child's imagination
There's a scene at the beginning of The Neverending Story where Bastian feels compelled to defend his honor as a lover of books and rattles off many of the books he's read: "I've read Treasure Island, Last of the Mohicans, The Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Tarzan..." The owner of the bookstore, Mr. Koreander, then asks him a question: "Have you ever been Captain Nemo, trapped inside your submarine, while the giant squid is attacking you?"
This is exactly the scene that pops into my head every time when I read This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary. In this book, Sadie becomes her favorite characters as well, and all of the feelings that I get from The Neverending Story come rushing back - particularly a love for literature and the truth that the imagination is a powerful thing. And it's our job to nourish it in our children. In The Neverending Story, all of Fantasia is powered by the imagination of children, but when they stop, and they lose their sense of wonder, The Nothing is ready to swallow it all up.
"...a love for literature and the truth that the imagination is a powerful thing. And it's our job to nourish it in our children."
Along the very same lines, there is a hauntingly beautiful song by The Arcade Fire called "Wake Up" that featured in the movie Where the Wild Things Are. In my opinion, there is nothing more joyful and pure than the non-stop imagination and wonder in a child, and there is nothing more tragic than having that imagination slowly taken away as we grow up. In "Wake Up", The Arcade Fire put it this way:
"...children don't grow up,
Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We're just a million little gods causin' rainstorms turnin' every good thing to rust."
This is a sad and biting commentary on society and life, and it takes on a particular meaning for me as a parent. This line haunts me. Like everybody else I've been responsible for causing some rainstorms. I've been angry about things that ultimately don't matter. I'm terrified of doing anything that stifles creativity and imagination in my kids or decreases their sense of wonder. I try my best to be very conscious of this and to support my kids and students to follow what inspires them.
With all that in mind, I am clearly a sucker for a book like This is Sadie - where childhood innocence, imagination, and a love for literature are the topics at hand. There's a playfulness to O'Leary's writing that brings moments that make us smile - "This is Sadie. No, not that. That's a box." - and then there's one great quote that reminds me of myself - "The days are never long enough for Sadie. So many things to make and do and be." This is exactly how I hope my kids feel about life - there is so much to experience and there are so many beautiful works of art people have made for us to enjoy.
"My very favorite part of This is Sadie are the moments, just like Bastian in The Neverending Story, where she turns into her favorite literary characters."
My very favorite part of This is Sadie are the moments, just like Bastian in The Neverending Story, where she turns into her favorite literary characters. The artwork by Julie Morstad really stands out here. It's a beautiful series of pages celebrating famous children's literature. It's a nice touch that the actual books and characters aren't mentioned by name, but for the most part it's clear what books Sadie is slipping into. The last character isn't as obvious though. In the last picture Sadie is a "hero in the world of fairy tales." She sits atop a white horse and has a bow and arrows slung over her shoulder. I'll have nobody convince me otherwise that this isn't Atreyu from The Neverending Story, and it makes me love this book all the more.
Have you read This is Sadie with your children? Can you think of any other books celebrating the imagination? Give your suggestions below in the comment section.