Friday, May 19, 2006

Drowning in a Loch of Tears

We've been sunk.

Do you ever find yourself most of the way through a good children's book where everything is goodness and light and age appropriate, and then WHAMMO!-- things start to hit the fan?

Last night we finished reading Little House in the Highlands. Great book. Gentle and interesting and good character development. History, haggis, the whole nine yards... it takes place near Loch Caraid aka "Friendly Lake" in the Highlands of Scotland. The main character is six years old and behaves like a six-year-old. Such good stuff, that both my girls were engaged and happy and brimming with excitement about it, connected to it, feeling it in their hearts and souls and then BANG. Something devastating happens in the penultimate chapter that throws us into a quagmire of grief. Sunburst, in particular, sobbed with wild abandon.

Understand that she's seven, and seven-year-olds can be wired like emotional rollercoasters, but still. I don't think it was entirely unwarranted.

***Read no further if you don't want the plot give-away.***

Martha's doll, Lady Flora, drowns in the loch. Her best brother floats her out there on a makeshift boat, unbeknowst to Martha, and she arrives in time to see her doll slowly sink under. It's not just a doll, but her constant companion. To make it worse, the doll is wearing new, fancy clothes to match Martha's new fancy clothes. The doll is even wearing a woolen shawl that Martha had spun and knit herself... and it's this woolen shawl that really does her in--the weight of it when it gets wet drags her down into the depths of the loch never to be seen again.

Ok, so it's a doll, not a person. But to a child? This is big-time. Sunburst has two dolls that she loves more than anything. One, a Waldorf doll I made for her years ago, and two, a doll my sister made for her just this Easter. She cannot and will not sleep without them. She gets them ready for bed each night, and wakes them up in the morning. Life without these dolls would be unthinkable. So this plot twist in the otherwise gentle story set Sunburst to wailing like a siren.

We had to then finish the story at once.... and hope, against hope, that her doll was saved. It wasn't. After a long and painful last chapter, there is some attempt at resolution in the very last two pages, but for Sunburst it was totally sub-par. Martha gets a new special toy (I won't give it all away,) and the "cold, empty place" in her heart gets filled a bit more. But Sunburst didn't buy into this at all.

No. Nothing short of dragging the lake would have brought the sun back into Sunburst's heart again. I fully expect she will go to Scotland someday and attempt to do just that: The resurrection of Lady Flora.

Friendly lake? Hah!

1 comment:

  1. I'm always on the lookout for excellent books to read to my 6&1/2 year old. Thank you for the warning though.


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