What Stories Have Taught Me. 100 Small Lessons.

It’s my 100th post!  I know for veterans, that’s a drop in the bucket of blogging, but considering I started this blog less than a year ago petrified that I’d never be able to stick with it and make it work, I’m feeling ready to celebrate.  So to recognize this 100th post, I’m going to take a look at the lessons I’ve learned from different science fiction and fantasy stories–because I’ve learned a lot from these books.

Some of these are personal thoughts, some are quotes.  They come from a wide range of science fiction and fantasy for kids, creeping into both picture books and YA at times.  I hope you’ll enjoy!

1. “There’s no place like home.” (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum)

2. If you aren’t good at something you want to do, practice, practice, practice!  Your skill to persevere can surpass natural talent. (Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce)

3.” For want of a nail, the shoe was lost/ for want of a shoe the horse was lost/ for want of a horse, the rider was lost/ for want of a rider, the message was lost/ for want of the message  the battle was lost/ for want of the battle, the kingdom was lost/ and all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” (A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle)

4. “Nothing is lost. . .Everything is transformed.” (The Neverending Story by Michael Ende)

5. Being ordinary on the outside doesn’t mean you aren’t extraordinary on the inside.  And sometimes it’s a whole lot more fun. (The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye) 

6. You don’t have to be tall, blonde and curvy to be a female protagonist.  Sometimes you can be short, stocky and short-tempered. (Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce)

7. You never know what you might find on the shelves at the library. (So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane)

8.  Wardrobes should be standard furniture in all homes. (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis)

9. “Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.” (Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett)

10. When bargaining with interstellar beings, always bring gourmet chocolate to trade. (Wizards at War by Diane Duane)

11.” I used to believe in forever, but forever’s too good to be true.” (Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne)

12.”You could get away with anything if you said you were doing a project.” (Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett)

13.“Strange as it may seem, horror loses its power to frighten when repeated too often.” (The Neverending Story by Michael Ende)

14. Believe in six impossible things before breakfast. (Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

15.Figuring out the right choices to make to survive and adventure isn’t as easy as you think. (Choose Your Own Adventure)

16. “And this was what being a wizard was about. Keeping terrible things from happening, even when it hurts.” (So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane)

17. “Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life.”  (Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt)

18. Memories need to be shared. (The Giver by Lois Lowry)

19. Be brave. Be bold. And be more than a little outrageous. (Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren)

20.  Words have enormous power.  (The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt)

21. “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” (Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie)

22. “Alike and equal are not the same things.” (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle)

23. Not fitting in, being different, isn’t always a bad thing. (The Dream Catcher by Monica Hughes)

24. Never underestimate the determination of dalmatians, or their capacity for doling out revenge. (The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith)

25. ” There is no greater evil than killing. I don’t care whether they call it war or justice. Life is precious.” (Mossflower by Brian Jacques)

26. “A story can be new and yet tell about olden times. The past comes into existence with the story.”  (The Neverending Story by Michael Ende)

27.  Girls can be knights.  And have adventures.  And be the hero of the story. (Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce,Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce)

28.  Being old can be remarkably liberating.  (Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones)

29. Always help fire lizards in need. (Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey)

30. A perfect world is empty without love and memory. (The Giver by Lois Lowry)

31. “You must never run from anything immortal. It attracts their attention.” (The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle)

32. “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking “(The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum)

33.  “Any great gift or power or talent can also be a burden.” (The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper)

34. Magic exists. Creeping into our lives through ordinary, every day  objects and bringing adventures and miracles with it. (The Power of the Rellard by Carolyn F. Logan)

35. Scientific Inventions can be awesome. (Danny Dunn Invisible Boy by Jay Williams)

36. Cats make the best companions. (Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander)

37. Fear the world that will not teach people to read. (This Time of Darkness by H. M. Hoover)

38. Just because the aliens win doesn’t mean the fight is over. (The White Mountains by John Christopher)

39. “The true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things”.  (The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle)

40. ” no cat anywhere ever gave anyone a straight answer.”(The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle)

41. Time travel usually causes more problems than it solves. (The Green Futures of Tycho by William Sleator)

42. “The important thing about being a leader is not being right or wrong but being certain.” (Truckers by Terry Pratchett)

43.  You never know when you might find your own sort of golden ticket. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl)

44. Cleverness and Intelligence can help you engineer your own rescue. (The Half-a-Moon Inn by Paul Fleischman)

45. Mysterious messages sent by magic may be more alarming than you think (The Haunting by Margaret Mahy)

46.  Sometimes we’ll risk all we are for the sake of a friend.  (Born of Flame by Steven Senn)

47. Always answer help wanted ads that glow green. (The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron)

48.  “A safe fairyland is untrue to all worlds.” (The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien)

49.  “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” (Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

50.  Aliens may be more like us than we imagine (The Fallen Spaceman by Lee Harding)

51.  Always tell kids if they’re living in a castle with goblins lurking in the caves underneath. (The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald)

52.  Censorship is a slippery slope. (2041 “Much Ado About Censored” by Connie Willis)

53.  Life is made up of the beautiful, the dark, the light, the ugly and the painful.  Woven altogether it makes a spellbinding tapestry. (Through the Mickle Woods by Valiska Gregory)

54. Proper is over rated.  And boring.  And dragons are generally more interesting than princes. (Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede)

55.  Sometimes it’s worth risking a deity’s wrath to challenge their sense of honor in order to save your friends. (Master of Fiends by Douglas Hill)

56.  What we wish for at the start of an adventure, is rarely what we want by the end. (Colors in the Dreamweaver’s Loom by Beth Hilgartner)

57. Prophecies can often point us in the wrong direction.  (Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson)

58. When visiting Time City, always try the butter pie. (A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones)

59.  Love and companionship are still the best rewards, even in the most dire and bleak of circumstances. (House of Stairs by William Sleator)

60.  “So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.” (The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster)

61. “The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it. “(Diggers by Terry Pratchett)

62.” The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart” (The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

63. “Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we can do. Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart.” (The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander)

65. “It’s always been the children who have saved the universe from the previous generation and remade the world in their own image. “(High Wizardry by Diane Duane)

66. “If you try to breathe water, you will not turn into a fish, you will drown; but water is still good to drink.” (The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley)

67. “Even the strongest and bravest must sometimes weep. It shows they have a great heart, one that can feel compassion for others.” (Redwall by Brian Jacques)

68. You don’t have to be perfect or the latest and the greatest to be extraordinary and wonderful. (Norby the Mixed-Up Robot by Janet Asimov and Isaac Asimov)

69.” It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” (The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien)

70. You never know when a chicken might come in handy. (The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron)

71. “My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.” (A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin)

72.  Earth, nature and her creatures should be cherished and protected before we lose them. For humankind will be lost in the process. (Eva by Peter Dickinson)

73. ” Someone who eats pancakes and jam can’t be so awfully dangerous.” (Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson)

74. Talent is something rare and beautiful and precious, and it must not be allowed to go to waste. (The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden)

75. “Seeing is not believing – it is only seeing.” (The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald)

76. Every child needs a genie. (The Genie of Sutton Place by George Selden)

77.  Magic can be a quiet, everyday sort of adventure–it’s not all epic battles and saving the world. (What the Witch Left by Ruth Chew)

78. It’s not easy to be a clone. (Anna to the Infinite Power by Mildred Ames)

79. Never underestimate the power of imagination. (Charmed by Marilyn Singer)

80. Be careful what you wish for! (Five Children and It by E. Nesbit)

81. “The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between.” (The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster)

82. Sometimes “it’s just a game” may not be the whole truth of the matter. (Interstellar Pig by William Sleator)

83.” Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained. “(A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett)

84. “Fear is a good thing. It mean you’re paying attention. “(Page by Tamora Pierce)

85. “Adventures are never fun while you’re having them” (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis)

86. ” Grown-ups are always thinking of uninteresting explanations.” (The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis)

87. Who really wants to live forever? (Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt)

88. “And what’s the use of getting rid of – of wickedness, say – in the outside world if you let it creep back into things from inside you?” (The Changeover by Margaret Mahy)

89. If, again, you do not know a horse when you see it, the name written under it will not serve you much. (The Light Princess by George MacDonald)

90. “When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.” (Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White)

91. “A person’s a person.  No matter how small.” (Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss)

92. Some teachers really do have eyes in the back of their heads (The Trouble with Miss Switch by Barbara Brooks Wallace)

93. Missing items may not be missing, but instead might possibly be “borrowed”. (The Borrowers by Mary Norton)

94. “Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.” (The Tale of Despereaux)

95. Human lives should never be considered expendable for the pursuit of science. (Brother Jonathan by Crawford Kilian)

96. “It’s amazing the way one can take a step ten and a half miles long and still always land in a cowpat “.(Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones)

97. Magic is a kind of hope. (Bright Shadow by Avi)

98.”There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.” (A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett)

99. The greater the sacrifice, the harder the price, the more powerful the magic. (Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane)

100.” It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”(Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White)

What are your favorite pieces of wisdom gleaned from books? Comments welcome!

What we read and what is read to us has a huge influence on us.  The power of stories is something I don't doubt.  And I'm giving my kids a full dose!What we read and what is read to us has a huge influence on us. The power of stories is something I don’t doubt. And I’m giving my kids a full dose!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on November 5, 2013, in General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Anneque G. Malchien

    Reblogged this on Anneque G. Malchien and commented:
    This is quite fantastic. Number 24, “Never underestimate the determination of dalmations, or their capacity for doling out revenge,” should also apply to Jack Russells. After a restless night last night, my little moustachioed best friend woke me up at 7 this morning, ready to play fetch.

  2. Anneque G. Malchien

    What a lovely list. Thank you for sharing so many great things!

  3. “Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” – Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

  4. Congratulations on your 100th post. And what a wonderful list!! I could spend all day browsing these. I especially like #19. My daughter is currently obsessed with Pippi (and I am thrilled, though my husband is worried that she might start climbing on the roof or something). I’ll need to think more about what I would add.

    • Thanks! She’s one of those non-princess heroines that’s been around forever and is such a delight to read about. I remember the delicious thrill of the first time I encountered Pippi myself.

  5. What a terrific list! Thanks for sharing it. It made me think of Jo Walton’s Among Others. If you haven’t read that, run to the library immediately!

  6. What a lovely list! If I had the book with me, I would try to find my favorite quote from Taran Wanderer–the bit where he decides to take apart the cloak he wove that he wasn’t happy with, and starts again….

  7. Though I have never read the book, this is the quote that I think of again and again and again. It’s from Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum: “And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things.”

  8. I love that you included Charmed by Marilyn Singer, that is one of my favorite books, and it seems to have gotten lost through the years. It was one of those books that makes an imprint on your life, that you remeber the first time you encountered it very clearly.

  9. “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (HP and the Chamber of Secrets- JK Rowling

    a”Sometimes a story can open a world for you: you step into it and forget the real one that you live in. Evidently this was such a story” (Return to Gone Away Lake- Elizabeth Enright

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