For those of you who believe that children’s books are only meant for, erm, children, you’ll want to read this.
Celeste Ng has been getting a round of applause for her new novel, Little Fires Everywhere, and her following is growing by the day. Celebrities and fans alike have been backing this, including Reese Witherspoon and John Green.
Image Via Penguin Random House
So what is it that makes Ng’s book such a popular drama and page-turner? It creates suspense and pulls us through every page, but what exactly makes it so appealing? Her son may have played a part in that.
I do recall my mother saying she would read it to my sisters and I before bed and it always seems to be the first book someone gifts to a new mother or mother-to-be. It follows the simple images of bunnies in a cozy little room and with each page turn, time passes along as the youngster in bed whishes the moon, and several other things, goodnight.
Image Via Goodreads
Now, if you look at the image, it’s cute and adorable with all those complimentary colors, but does it really make total sense? There’s a balloon, two playing kittens, a fireplace, a black and white portrait, and snow outside. This is so simple that it must mean something else. Celeste Ng tries her best to explain it, saying, “The text is just a list of items, and the artwork has no action in it. And yet, it really does capture something for us. Something more powerful than just pure nostalgia could explain.”
However, Ng explains why she has such a connection to it. The random objects and ambiguous imagery provides children (and adults) the freedom to make it your own. There’s no explanation why a black rotary phone is on the baby bunny’s nightstand. Ng explained her son’s idea that the balloon is there because it’s the bunny’s birthday. Perhaps it is, but perhaps there’s another reason.
That’s such a natural instinct– our minds are always trying to impose some kind of meaning. We instinctively resist the idea that these are just random objects, a bunch of stuff just lying around a room. Whether it’s a child or adult reader, the impulse is to invent stories that explain how things in the room connect. We can’t help trying to answer the question why— which, for me, is the fundamental question of fiction.
Our minds were just blown with that one. Ng makes a really valid point. Just like in her novel, there’s a need to connect the unconnected. Naturally, as humans, we want things to operate in a logical way. Things are more familiar that way. “I think Goodnight Moon works in a similar way,” Ng says. “It presents you with a range of ambiguous details, asking you to make connections and supply cause and effect.”
Ng seems to have said it all. For such a simple book we’ve sure got a lot out of it. Maybe we should all look a little harder. We’ll surely be surprised at what we find.
Feature Image Via New York Post