Hopefully, one day you all might get a chance to read it.
A Forward for Parents
(Children, feel free to skip this part and get to the good stuff)
“Yet the old time fairy tale, having served for generations, may now be classed as “historical” in the children’s library; for the time has come for a series of newer “wonder tales…”
L. Frank Baum, 1900, INTRODUCTION TO THE WIZARD OF OZ
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it.
-C. S. Lewis, INTRODUCTION TO THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
This book is many things.
It is an adventure with magical creatures, cliffhangers and dread villains, dark powers rising and a only a small band of heroes to face them. It is at once a fairy tale with funny talking animals and a story about strength and resolve and finding one’s way when the path is uncertain. It is also, I think you will find as parents, a kind of love letter to a very specific moment in a child’s life, when they stand on the precipice of being bigger than they once were. Not yet “big,” but no longer just small.
But here’s the thing I feel you must understand. While it is all those things and maybe even more, it is also meant to be for girls.
At first, it was for my daughter, and now, it is also for yours.
It is a girl’s story of wonder and imagination, of discovery and growing up. A girl’s story of sovereignty over her own mind and beliefs. Boys have plenty of those. This? It is for your daughters.
Will boys read it and listen to it? Certainly. Boys can love it. There is much in here they will enjoy; there are sword battles with shadow monsters; there’s armies on the march and goblins and giant monsters who need defeating.
I hope that your boys, if they listen along or read themselves, will be captured by the story and need to follow it to its end.
They can read, they can listen, of course. I encourage them to do so.
But it isn’t theirs. That’s OK; there is much in the world that is theirs, there are many books on the shelf that are meant for them. This is your daughter’s book.
I began this introduction by saying this book is many things. Indulge me for a moment when I tell you what else it is. Or at least, what I have intended it to be. Suspend your disbelief, like a child of eight or nine may, and know this:
If you believe hard enough, this book can also a be a magic spell.
You balk, perhaps, because you are grown and have made a habit of disbelieving in magic. This is an unfortunate habit. But I tell you truly: What you will do now is magic. I will tell you how to cast this spell and why you must.
Your girl is getting bigger. All of the princess-toys and dolls she has, she still loves and she still wants more. But soon, she will not; they will become things that get packed away. Not yet. But soon.
Soon, too, (sooner than you think) she will no longer need or want you to read her stories at bedtime. Your window on this era of her childhood is closing. There is nothing you can do to make it slow its descent. Nothing. But here is what you can do.
Read the words of this book, every night, out loud to her.
Set aside a half hour each night to continue your visit together into the magical realm of the Tember. You will stay right where you are, yet go places that can’t be and move through time and you will do it together. You will create, in her room, a portal to another realm; a window into a Never-Was that will exist as long as you keep the spell going. You will travel there, with her. You will create voices and characters that she will come to know and trust and love. She will love Lammie. Everyone loves Lammie.
And the one you make with her will be different than the one I spoke to my daughter. But it will be yours, together. With your voice and your time, just by speaking, you will create scary (but not too scary) villainous characters, that will thrill her and fill her with a sense of agency and power when you both, in the telling and hearing, defeat them, as she knows they must be defeated.
For this is a spell that you and she will cast together, as storyteller and listener, over the next series of many weeks. Maybe a month or more. This is a serious spell you are casting. A spell of memory and wonder.
You will summon shared visions of castles and forests and living toys, of unicorns and wolves and wise old owls, of swords and crowns and wands and chalices. This is a full-length novel you and your girl will be embarking on; it is a journey. Trust me. Trust her– she’s big enough now to go on it. Depending on when you start, the leaves on the trees may go from green to gone; or from gone to budding and green. There are some chapters that are too long for one night’s telling; she will want to hear more and you will have to tell her, “We’ll stop here. But tomorrow. More tomorrow, I promise.” When this happens, you will know the spell is working.
She will be a bigger girl than she was when you start and here is the magic you will work:
When you have come to the end, you and your girl will have accomplished something grand. You will have completed a journey, together. And that will never go away; in the years to come as she puts away her stuffed bears and crowns and castles until they no longer remain at all, this journey, this telling, will still remain. As she gets older and the world opens up to her and she grows, this time period, right now, will be captured for you both as a warm memory of a long and exciting journey you took together. It will live as a timeless time when she was small and she looked forward each night to the next twist and turn in the tale.
This is a hard truth for you, parent, but no less true for its hardness: Childhood, her childhood, is only a moment and it is fleeting and lasts no longer than an eyeblink. What you will do, with this book you hold, is create a memory of that moment, of you and her together in that moment, that lasts forever.
Magic lasts forever, and this is magic. It is a spell that works, and I know it works because I have cast it myself. It begins very briefly with a Daddy, telling his girl a story, then gets quickly to the good stuff. If you are a Mom, please feel free to change it to a Mommy, and all the “he”s to “she”s.
Now. The journey will begin. Don’t worry, you won’t get lost: I will tell you the map.