I know that sounds harsh, so let me explain. She's crying over a book -- something she's never done before and has even criticized her sister for doing. "It's not real," she has said with a superior air. "It's only a book."
Only a book.
It's not that she's never connected with literature prior to this. Both my daughters are avid readers, and we make time in our day for plenty of pleasure reading. This child in particular reads while she eats breakfast and lunch. In fact, at lunch we all read. And she's known for reading aloud funny parts to share with me. She loves to read.
Over the last few weeks, she's been reading through L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series. We have them all. I've only read the first, myself. She is now on Rilla of Ingleside. Rilla (for Marilla) is one of Anne and Gilbert Blythe's children, in case you didn't know. This story takes place during World War I, which is natural fodder for some complicated and tragic circumstances. One of the boys who goes off to fight is killed in France.
My daughter was devastated. She brought me the book, tears on her cheeks, and said, "Read that part," pointing to words on the page. I read it, my mouth dropped open, and my eyes flew back to her face.
She nodded and began to cry in earnest. "I can't believe he's dead!"
Later in the day, she made several comments, such as:
"I know he's just a character, but L. M. Montgomery makes everyone seem so real."
"Poor (name of love interest), she's going to be so sad."
"Have you ever read books that made you cry?"
And at bedtime: "I can't believe I've cried so much about him. I didn't know he and I were so close!"
She and I had a lovely discussion about books that touch our hearts.
Isn't that the power of really good books? To take us out of ourselves and into another world? To be drawn in by characters so well created they seem real to us? To be delighted with their good fortunes and heartbroken at their tragedies? And to never forget them?
Finally my daughter understands. It's never only a book.