Part two in the exciting installment!
This is a quiet book, and it took several readings to grow on me. It’s magical and lyrical, and tells the story of Willoughby, who meets a lion who tells him that he can have ten wishes. For his first nine wishes, the boy asks for what you might expect: a huge house, a roller coaster, x-ray glasses. Then, about to make his ninth wish, he turns to the suddenly-quiet lion and asks, “What’s the matter?”
“I miss my home,” the lion answers. “I want to run through the fields with all the other lions.” For his last wish, the boy makes a choice that takes away all the grand things he had asked for before, but grants him something more special: the title of “True Friend.”
I’ve read this one so many times that I’m no longer susceptible to it, but I used to always choke up at the part where big sister Bella goes out on a limb to rescue little brother Dave’s stuffed dog from the stubborn girl at the fair.
“Then Bella did something very kind.
‘Would you swap this teddy for my brother’s dog?’ she asked. Right away the little girl stopped crying and began to smile. She held out Dogger to Dave, took the big teddy instead, and went off with him in her arms.
Then Dave smiled too.
He hugged Dogger and he hugged Bella around her waist.
‘Thank you, Bella,’ he said.”
It gives me hope for my two kids!
In the beginning we meet the little girl Alice, who tells a story of her great-aunt, also called Alice. When great-aunt Alice was a little girl, she told her grandfather that she wanted to, like him, travel to faraway places and then come home to live by the sea. He responded that that was all very well, but that she must also do one third thing: somehow make the world more beautiful. Alice said alright—“But she did not know what that could be.”
Fast-forward to the end of the book, when great-aunt Alice is frail and old, and has accomplished all three goals.
“My Great-aunt Alice, Miss Rumphius, is very old now. Her hair is very white. Every year there are more and more lupines. Now they call her the Lupine Lady. Sometimes my friends stand with me outside her gate, curious to see the old, old lady who planted the fields of lupines. When she invites us in, they come slowly. They think she is the oldest woman in the world. Often she tells us stories of faraway places.
‘When I grow up,’ I tell her, ‘I too will go to faraway places and come home to live by the sea.’
‘That is all very well, little Alice,’ says my aunt, ‘but there is a third thing you must do.’
‘What is that?’ I ask.
‘You must do something to make the world more beautiful.’
‘Alright, I say.
‘But I do not know yet what that can be.’”
I love full-circle endings.