• When children’s mystery writer Joan Lowery Nixon was a little girl, she found a stack of magazines — with such titles as True Confessions, True Love, and Modern Romances — in a box under her grandmother’s bed. Being an avid reader, she avidly began to read. That night, at supper, she asked her parents the meanings of a few words she had read in the magazines but had not understood. Surprised, her parents asked her where she had come across such words, and the story of the box of magazines came out. Her grandfather, a self-educated lover of the classics, blamed himself for not educating the mind of his wife, and announced that he would read to her that night a story from The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights. The reading did not go well. He started to read “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad,” but when he read out loud that one of the three ladies had breasts “like two pomegranates of even size,” his wife was outraged. She stormed, “Twin pomegranates! Oh, how rude! There is nothing that vulgar in my magazines!” And so Ms. Nixon’s grandmother’s education in the classics came to an end.
• Jean Little, the author of Little by Little, once read The Secret Garden to some children she was babysitting. The girls seemed very interested in the book, so she read a couple of extra chapters, but the boy looked bored. However, after Ms. Little had finished reading, the boy wanted to use the telephone. Given permission, he called his mother and said in an excited tone, “Mum, they got into the garden!” Ms. Little learned from this experience: “Never again did I make the mistake of thinking that a child who appeared inattentive was getting nothing out of a book.”
• Determined to found a new community, a king selected a site and then consulted his astrologers. The astrologers read the stars and planets, concluding that the site was good — if a child would be entombed alive within the walls of the community. Therefore, a mother was forced to “volunteer” her child to be entombed alive. However, the mother’s child was very intelligent, and he told the king, “Let me ask your astrologers three questions. If the astrologers answer the questions correctly, then we will know that they can truly read the stars and planets, and I will willingly be entombed alive. However, if they answer wrongly, then we will know that they wrongly read the stars and planets, and no one should be entombed alive.” The king agreed to the child’s request, and the child asked the astrologers these questions: “What is the lightest thing in the world? What is the sweetest thing in the world? And what is the heaviest thing in the world?” The astrologers consulted among themselves for three days, then told their answers to the three questions: “The lightest thing in the world is a feather, the sweetest thing in the world is honey, and the heaviest thing in the world is stone.” The child laughed and said, “The lightest thing in the world is an only child in its mother’s arms — the child is never heavy. The sweetest thing in the world is the mother’s milk to the baby. And the heaviest thing in the world is for a mother to be forced to ‘volunteer’ her child to be entombed alive.” The astrologers recognized that the child’s answers were correct, so they told the king that they had misread the stars and planets, and no one was entombed alive.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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