“Once upon a time—for that is how all stories should begin—there
was a boy who lost his mother.”
Did you ever form an emotional connection to a book, movie, song, or play? Has something ever touched you in such a way that you can physically feel yourself changing, growing, learning, and understanding? This has only happened to me once…and it happened a mere three years ago…
I had never even heard of Into the Woods before stepping into the theatre. As I waited for the show to start I glanced at the cast list and saw “Cinderella,” “Snow White,” “Prince Charming,” and “Little Red Riding Hood” listed among many other fairy tale characters. I wondered if I was in for something like Storybook Theatre, and then the overture started…
I left that theatre a changed person. That show completely changed my life. I saw it five times since then and purchased the movie staring Bernadette Peters (wow!). Ever since, I’ve been completely engrossed in fairy tales.
Ironically, my senior capstone class in college was a fairy tale study. We analyzed and critiqued stories from The Brother’s Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and many others. In class one day someone was discussing this amazing book they read about “fairy tales gone wrong,” as he said. I wrote down The Book of Lost Things and headed to the bookstore after class.
At first I wondered if I really wanted to tackle this 470-page beast of a book. I was right in the middle of the Harry Potter series, had novels upon novels of American Indian lit to read, and tons of case studies for public relations…but I caved and bought it anyway.
The Book of Lost Things became my favorite book EVER after about 10 pages. I felt like Mary Poppins when she falls into the sidewalk drawing. I was completely engrossed in this book. I’ve read it a few more times since then and decided that it would be perfect for this collection of summer literature…
Like many of the children in the fairy tales he adores, twelve-year-old David is troubled. His mother has recently died and his father takes to marrying Rose, a nurse from the hospital where his mother stayed during her illness (scandal!). David’s father and Rose begin to start a family of their own and David is forced to leave his childhood home and move into Rose’s house with his father and his new step-brother, Georgie.
David resents his father for marrying Rose. He resents him for having a baby with her. He resents Georgie and Rose for ruining his relationship with his father. Frustrated and alone, David turns to the fairy tales and myths his mother would read to him and is comforted by their familiarity.
When David and his family make the move to Rose’s house, David finds himself living in a room filled with books left by its former occupant, Rose’s uncle Jonathan Tulvey. David learns of the horrible things that happened to Jonathan and his young sister, Anna, when they were children living in that house…and that’s when David’s nightmares start.
It’s not until David starts hearing the voice of his dead mother that things start to spiral out of control. The books on the shelves start talking to him, the nightmares become more vivid, and an old Crooked Man appears to David on numerous occasions. It’s at this moment when David’s reality and imagination begin to blend…and things get interesting…
One particular night, David hears his dead mother calling out for help, saying he needs to rescue her. Feeling obligated to his dear mum, David follows her voice into the darkness of the garden behind the house. Suddenly a German plane falls from the sky and crashes not far from where David stands. He crawls into an opening in the side of the garden to escape the flames and immediately finds himself in a totally different land…and it ain’t Wonderland, Munchkinland, or Candy Land…
The first person David meets in this new world is a man simply known as The Woodsman. He befriends David and tells him about the dangers of the forest and how to protect himself from the various creatures that inhabit it. The Woodsman knows that David is from another world and knows that it’s of the utmost importance that he returns there. Therefore, The Woodsman suggests they travel to see the king and ask him how David can safely return home.
Along the way, David and The Woodsman find themselves woven into the stories of David’s childhood, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and The Three Billy Goat’s Gruff, just to name a few…but these aren’t brought to you by Disney, my friends. Snow White, for example, hates living with the seven dwarfs. She makes fun of them, teases them, and beats them for poisoning her with an apple (apparently, the queen had nothing to do with it!). Little Red Riding Hood was a naughty girl, too…and was pretty captivated by one organ the wolf had that was all the better to impregnate her with, my dear.
With the help of some of the most cherished literary characters of all time, David embarks on a journey of self-discovery, gaining insight on love, loss, friendship, and, perhaps most importantly, himself. Readers can’t help but stand beside David, motivating him to continue his quest and not resting until he safely returns home.
As you read The Book of Lost Things, I’m sure you’ll find yourself wondering about the real version of these Grimm fairy tales. Not to worry, for the author, John Connolly, includes the Grimm version of each of the fairy tales in The Book of Lost Things in the back of the book, as well as a brief discussion about why they were used and what they mean to the story. Included in this collection are: Rumpelstiltskin, The Water of Life, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, The Three Billy Goat’s Gruff, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Army Surgeons, The Goose Girl, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty.
The Book of Lost Things may be filled with the stories of our childhood, but it is by no means a child’s book…it’s more for the child inside the adult…for those who still retreat to the land of imagination, who still believe in true love’s kiss, and who never stop striving for happily ever after.
“Deeper meaning resides
in the fairy tales told to me
in my childhood than in the
truth that is taught by life.”
SUGGESTION: READ IT!! Seriously. If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, Into the Woods, The Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tales, or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you will love this book.
NEXT WEEK: We’re heading into the kitchen. Cook up a pot of Ramen noodles and get ready to laugh out loud.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.