Today my favorite author answered all my questions. He told us about his work, what he likes to read, and what he thinks his books mean. He said many brilliant things, and I wish I could quote him because no one can put it like he can, but there are two things that I think are worth paraphrasing. He said that children can read anything if they like something about it. No matter how complicated His Dark Materials has become over time, he says that children will still read it because they love Lyra and that anything important to Lyra will naturally be important to them. He said that he would give a 10-year-old a quantum mechanics book if he thought he/she would have even the slightest interest in it. He also said that the most important thing we can do for children is read nursery rhymes to them. He said that sitting a child in one’s lap and reading those beautiful poems to them will help them love language long before they enter a classroom. By igniting that love in them at a young age, we will be that much closer to getting them to read once they are too big for our laps.
It was exactly what we all wanted. He was charming and intelligent and very generous in his responses. We got some insights into his world and sharing that beautiful tea room with him for two hours was the experience of a lifetime. Also, he brought his personal alethiometer. The one he had a jeweler make for him. We got to play with it.
We capped the evening with a trip to the Botanic Gardens where Lyra and Will would “meet” in their separate Oxfords once a year to remember their love for one another. Erin, Carly and I were walking around and we saw Tolkien’s favorite tree (which we noticed before we even knew what it was because it was just that cool).
We then passed by a bench and I made the comment that it was the perfect bench for the book because it was a little tucked away and looking out on a portion of a water garden. I even said, “I could see thinking about someone I love in a space like this.” We continued on our way and later realized that we couldn’t find the right bench. After consulting our maps, we realized it was the bench we had talked about earlier. Good choice, Mr. Pullman!
Overall, it was a great last day in Oxford. We had an amazing time here and saw sights related to Wind in the Willows, Harry Potter, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and His Dark Materials. We spoke to an inspiring modern author, drank tea on the grass next to a world famous Regatta, and saw Tolkien’s personal illustrations for The Hobbit. If my trip was ending tomorrow, I would be satisfied.
Tomorrow we go to Haworth and will see some Tolkien sites. Then we’ll go to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory and channel Roald Dahl for a few hours. We’ll be traveling by bus and lugging our lovely luggage around with us (which for me has grown slightly), but we’re all ready for a change of scenery. And weather (fingers crossed).