What You Should Do Right Now

Lately I have been beset by sudden attacks of loose ends, when I wander the neighborhood (or house, if I'm tired) not knowing quite what to do. Of course, there are many things I should do—clean the bathrooms. Earn some money. Find out what I'm supposed to do with the mysterious tax letter. But somehow those never come immediately to mind.

I am writing this in case you are suffering the same strange, late-May fog, because I have recently discovered what to do. You should read The Blue Fairy Book. No, not the big thick one with lots of words. The weird, inexplicable hard-cover one from my childhood. Like so:


Do you know why you should read it? Because of Felicia and the Pot of Pinks.


There is something about these illustrations that touches my soul in a strange and profound way. But even the pot of pinks pales beside—Diamonds and Toads.


Do you SEE? Jewels are coming out of her mouth! The extent to which this affected me as a child is…is probably not altogether OK. And not just because of her poor sister:


Snakes and toads in her mouth. How did it feel? I mean, I spent some time wondering about the jewels in the mouth too (aren't diamonds sort of, er, hard and sharp?) but the slithery aliveness of these give me pause.

But truly, there is nothing like a weird, fairy-tale book from your childhood to send you rocketing back to when you were another person, and the world and its stories were more…permeable. You could go right inside, without even hesitating. I think it's what I still search for, when I read.

Anyway, there you go, that should keep you off the streets and prevent you from getting anything useful done. If you have any bizarre dreamworld books from your childhood that might not be actually good, but have that weird hold on you, by all means leave them in the comments. We're always looking for tickets to the other side.

9 thoughts on “What You Should Do Right Now

  1. I’m wrapped! What happens to the daughter?
    Oh, and that tax letter, open it. YOu may be pleasantly surprised! You never know!


  2. A few days ago I finished reading Tove Jansson’s Moominpappa’s Memoirs, and it had that effect on me. I was right there with the characters walking to the Autocrat’s garden party, waiting anxiously for the next surprise to reveal itself


  3. Marigold at Godmother’s House by Joyce Lancaster Brisley!
    When Marigold visits her mysterious godmother, marvels occur for her sole delight. Her washstand and ewer become a rock-pool shower, complete with marigold edging. Her shabby dress turns inside out to become pretty again. Her piano practice opens a wall to let in the birds. A magnificent horse takes her flying. And the porridge tastes good.
    After I left home my mother lent the book, and it never came back, which made a hole in my life. A few years ago, though, I found one exactly the same on Abe, so all is well again.


  4. I’m thinking there is a refrain in a Rosemary Wells’ book called “First Tomato” that wasn’t around when I was a girl but meant a lot to me when reading it to my boys. There’s a Queen Janet and a Bunny Planet and it’s weird and dorky and beautiful, and sometimes my very real problems are diffused if I think about Queen Janet.


  5. Some people have gall stones, others have jewels lurking in their digestive system! Although the first thing I noticed about the illustrations was the Princess Leia hairdo…


  6. Lol
    The furthest I ever got in those terms was with Dr. Seuss. I mainly stuck to mystery stories after that.
    If I had read about a girl with toads, snakes and diamonds in her mouth I would have thought they were torturing the poor girl. It sounds unpleasant and certainly not something I would want to imagine as a child, not now either.
    Who knows what children’s book writers are delivering up in this genre today?


  7. Elizabeth,
    At a library sale last year I found all three Bunny Planet books collected in one volume. I gave it to my daughter for Christmas. It’s marvelous 🙂


  8. “to send you rocketing back to when you were another person, and the world and its stories were more…permeable. You could go right inside, without even hesitating. I think it’s what I still search for, when I read.”
    Yes! Exactly that. My daughter and I were having a similar conversation about reading books when we were younger, how we could actually immerse ourselves in that place/world/story and feel like we were inhabiting it. (And sometimes it was hard to come back after reading something that really drew us in.) I wonder if we lose the ability to completely lose ourselves in stories as we age, or it somehow becomes more difficult?


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