Steeped in Stories -- a Book about Reading Classic Children's Stories in Modern Times


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

What are the classic children's novels you read when you were little? Have you read them again as an adult? Have your children read them? Or are they on a banned list for the racism and other inappropriate things that are no longer acceptable in our modern society? Today I am sharing a book for adults about reading those stories as adults with or without kids and relating them to our modern world. Are you ready to reminisce? The book is Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children's Novels to Refresh Our Tired Souls by Mitali Perkins.

From the Publisher:

The stories we read as children shape us for the rest of our lives. But it is never too late to discover that transformative spark of hope that children's classics can ignite within us.

Award-winning children's author Mitali Perkins grew up steeped in stories--escaping into her books on the fire escape of a Flushing apartment building and, later, finding solace in them as she navigated between the cultures of her suburban California school and her Bengali heritage at home. Now Perkins invites us to explore the promise of seven timeless children's novels for adults living in uncertain times: stories that provide mirrors to our innermost selves and open windows to other worlds.

Blending personal narrative, accessible literary criticism, and spiritual and moral formation, Perkins delves into novels by Louisa May Alcott, C. S. Lewis, L. M. Montgomery, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and other literary "uncles" and "aunts" that illuminate the virtuous, abundant life we still desire. These novels are not perfect, and Perkins honestly assesses their critical frailties and flaws related to race, culture, and power. Yet reading or rereading these books as adults can help us build virtue, unmask our vices, and restore our hope.

Reconnecting with these stories from childhood isn't merely nostalgia. In an era of uncertainty and despair, they lighten our load and bring us much-needed hope.

From Me: 

In a time when more and more classic novels, children's and adult's, are being banned or deemed inappropriate in today's cultures and classrooms, Mitali Perkins challenges us to reread or perhaps read for the first time some favorite children's books and look beyond the critical flaws of racism, culture and power. Mitali Perkins is a woman of color herself and yet she turns to the stories of her childhood to reconnect and bring herself hope and to relax. She shares with us why as adults it is good to return to these books as well as looks at seven classic children's books she read as a child. She tears into the books with a microscope exploring what we now see as inappropriate language and behavior.  She takes it beyond just the history in each novel sharing a piece of our past which we can learn from and understand to make our lives and society better in the present. 

The books she discusses are Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. To be honest I have only read one or two and know of most of the others. I guess I was not much of a classics reader as a child. For each book Mitali shares about the characters and their flaws as well as their talents. She finds something in each book to focus on like love, hope, courage and more. She weaves the theme through each book through its characters and story. There are even times where she shares how she would discuss the inappropriate actions and words if she was reading it with children.

The book gives a very honest look at the classics Mitali grew up reading and shares her love for the books in a very modern view. She is a Christian and shares the Christianity in many of the books. She shares the forming of faith as well as the practice of it. I found this book fascinating to see how a person of color relates to these classics that have racism or inappropriate behavior in them or perhaps have only white people in them. I hope you will check it out and then go back and read the classic children's novels again or for the first time. They hopefully will bring us all some hope and familiarity in this time of struggle!