Friday, November 18, 2011

Worth Reading: Opal Whiteley's Diary

While we're all waiting around for baby to decide to show her pretty face… read any good books lately?  I don’t mean just mildly entertaining or interesting books, but the kind that are so wonderful you want to tell everyone about them.  You know, the type of book that you just keep telling your significant other or best friend about, even when they’re tired of hearing you read your favorite excerpts?  Yes, the type that makes you feel like an enthusiastic bookworm!

If you’re looking for something nice to read on a chilly day while you cuddle up with a cup of tea or cocoa, I have an idea for you.  And if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, maybe this will make your summer reading list! 

Recently I came across a copy of this book, The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow: The Rediscovered Diary of Opal Whitely.  I originally intended to give it to my sister because it looked like something she would find interesting.  Then I started reading it, and knew that I MUST keep it for myself.  But I also knew I needed to get another copy to give to my mom, because I think she would absolutely love it.  It’s that kind of book.  I’ve acquired two copies so far and am looking for a cheap third.  I need to share this with people.

Here’s a quick summary from Amazon: “Innocent and intimate, this haunting diary reveals the life of a kind of feminine Peter Pan in the Oregon wilderness.”  I’m not sure that does Opal any justice.  She was definitely some sort of child genius, and she was definitely disconnected from reality.  She talked to trees, the wind, the creek, animals.  And they talked back to her in a way.  She ended up living out most of her life in a mental hospital.  So her story is ultimately sad, but the diary was written very early in her childhood.  She had such a unique voice, and said the sweetest things.  She carried toads and mice in her pockets, had a hospital for sick animals, and a nursery for baby animals.  She named trees and animals the most exciting things; my favorite is the mouse named Thomas Chatterton Jupiter Zeus. She left notes for fairies and angels in the woods, and created a cathedral where she would hold religious services for all of her animals.  Everything was full of magic and wonder.

To put it simply, this diary is one of the most adorable things I’ve ever read.  It’s occasionally sad, because Opal didn’t understand a lot of things about people and no one took the time to explain them to her.  She was in trouble on a daily basis with her mother for naively doing things completely wrong (think Amelia Bedelia but in the early 1900s: she took all things literally and would throw a butter churn in the river if her mother said she wished to never see it again), and the punishments she endured sound quite cruel.  But Opal never complained, and there were a few adults in her life who obviously adored her and played along with her magical worldview. 

Can you tell how into this book I am?  It’s one of those that is fun to randomly open up and start reading at any place.  I think you’ll like it!  Unless you don’t enjoy animals, nature, or the wonder of childhood.  It’s also fascinating from a psychological standpoint, so I can’t really imagine anyone not liking it, unless they’re just plain grumpy. 

Read it, if you can find a copy.  Check your local library first!  There are multiple editions, some with more back story than others.

So what about you?  Have any books you’re just itching to share with everyone?  Tell me about them!

1 comment:

  1. I just finished reading two really great books, 'To Sir, with Love' and 'My Antonia'. I can't wait until I'm done with school and can read for pleasure without feeling guilty!


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