At 2:12am this morning I finished The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. I read it on my Kindle, but somewhere at my parents’ house I do have a paperback copy of this book. A well worn paperback copy of this book. For a period of time when I was in middle school I would take that book everywhere with me. It is all worn down and half of the pages are wavy from when I dropped it into a mud puddle while camping in Ohio. I would finish the book and then just start again from the beginning. Or so I assumed.
This time around only about 10% of The Neverending Story seemed familar. I think that maybe I would just read the beginning part about Atreyu over and over again because he was so great and for a long time Bastian was such a brat.
Anyway, I (re)read the (whole) book and loved it, of course. Something I’m noticing about these 100 Great Children’s Chapter Books is the imagination. It takes imagination to get into these books, to put the words into pictures in your head. It takes imagination to learn from books, to read and understand and visualize Bastian’s adventures through Fantastica and then to understand and visualize what those adventures could look like in your own life – to learn from Bastian and Atreyu and all the rest.
As adults it is very easy to forget imagination. To assume that imaging is something for children.
When I was in preschool, my friends and I used to imagine that we were married housewives. We really wanted the boys to play with us too, so that we would have someone to be married to, but inevitably they would all rather play with the blocks. Not letting that deter our game, we would just imagine that our “husbands” worked in construction and while they were at work over there in the blocks area, we were cooking and cleaning over here in the house area.
But adults use imagination all of the time, too! Or at least we should.
Yesterday I rearranged my bedroom. I like to do that a lot. I like to move furniture and art (and kittens) around. That takes imagination! Before I feel asleep the night before I laid in bed and imagined where everything would go. Then I woke up the next day and did it. But the imagining came first.
Every Sunday morning before church I lay in bed and imagine what I am going to wear that day.
Every day for the month of November I imagine what kinds of things Grayson and Finn experience living in The Commonwealth as I write my NaNoWriMo novel.
Every day when I read my Bible I imagine what it must have been like to have been the woman with the issue of blood for 12 awful years. I imagine what it must have been like for Moses to hear God speak again and again, through burning bushes and staffs turned into snakes. I imagine what it was like for Paul, to be stopped on the road by a blinding light. I imagine how it felt for the disciples to see the Risen King, Jesus, their friend and teacher who, alive! How it must have felt to put their hands into his side, to touch his scars. To watch Him die, and then to talk with Him days later. I imagine what it’s like to not only witness miracles, but to be a part of them. To hand out two fish and five loaves of bread and then to collect up baskets full of bread and fish after feeding 5,000 men and their families.
I imagine what all of these crazy stories have to do with me.
I imagine how I can love people better and how I can love God better and how I can love myself better.
I imagine tattoo designs and what my house might one day look like and what I would name my dog if I had one and I imagine what Catching Fire might be like and what it would be like to be an actress and I imagine what it might feel like to actually write 50,000 words and have someone read them and say, “That was nice.”
I imagine what might taste good on chicken or what I could put together in the crockpot to make something people want to eat.
I use my imagination a lot. And I’m so thankful for all of the books I’ve read in my life that exercised my imagination. For my Dad who read me crazy nonsensical, whimsical Dr. Seuss books and taught me how to read when I was four years old. For JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis and Madeliene L’Engle and Suzanne Collins who imagined whole stinking worlds.
I imagine that all of those imaginers read a lot of books when they were growing up, too. That it takes a lot of imagination prep work to be able to write convincingly about Whosits and Whatsits and wizards and magic and devotion and friendship.
I imagine that this whole darn thing was supposed to be about the book The Neverending Story but by now it’s pretty clear that I’m really bad at book reports. (Except when I wrote this one comparing Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. That was a pretty good book report.) I also imagine that whoever translated The Neverending Story from German into English (and all of the other languages its translated into) had some fun with names like “Shlamoofs” and “Pyornkrachzark.”
Anyway, The Neverending Story is about this world, Fantastica, that needs help because Nothing is taking over and the Childlike Empress is sick. So Atreyu, this green buffalo hunter boy, sets out on a journey to find what can heal the Childlike Empress and consequently heal Fantastica. Turns out the only cure is for a human to come rename the Childlike Empress. So Bastian, this chubby human boy reading The Neverending Story of Atreyu, goes to Fantastica and names the Childlike Empress and re-creates Fantastica and re-creates himself. Only he re-creates himself so much that he forgets who he used to be. So he goes through this whole journey of figuring out who he is and who he wants to be and what his deepest wish and desire is.
And guess what it is?
And very imaginative.