We may be isolated as we shelter in place, but we should never feel lonely. Invite any of these families into your home for companionship. To avoid overcrowding, read their stories aloud, one at time. No family or pets with you? Read aloud anyway – you’ll cheer yourself up.
The Ingallses (Little House). The Little House series, detailing the pioneering days of post–Civil War America, is a literary masterpiece. Survival, hard work, and seasonal achievements are detailed in understandable yet riveting prose. Charles Ingalls, known as Pa, is the provident father of the Ingalls family, and Caroline, or Ma, is his ever-present equal. Join the Ingallses in their log cabin: “The fire was shining on the hearth, the cold and the dark and the wild beasts were all shut out, and Jack the brindle bulldog and Black Susan the cat lay blinking at the flames in the fireplace. Ma sat in her rocking chair, sewing by the light.” You’ll feel in safe hands, even when the wolves howl outside.
The Bastables (Bastable Children). Financial difficulties force this intrepid family into action, producing a story full of cheer and hilarity. E. Nesbit’s writing is genius – even C.S. Lewis acknowledges his debt of gratitude to the Bastable family (read The Magician’s Nephew, number five in this list). If our days stranded at home are long, never fear. Oswald, the oldest Bastable boy narrates an engaging yarn: “This is why I shall not tell you in this story about all the days when nothing happened. You will not catch me saying, ‘thus the sad days passed slowly by’ – or ‘the years rolled on their weary course’ – or ‘time went on’ – because it is silly; of course time goes on – whether you say so or not. So I shall just tell you the nice, interesting parts – and in between you will understand that we had our meals and got up and went to bed, and dull things like that.” London at the turn of the last century will come alive in your living room.
The Walkers (Swallows and Amazons). Join the Walkers on their sailing vessel and don’t forget to pack the matches. Look out for Peggy and Nancy, the pirates. Wild Cat Island is the perfect place for camping, but even explorers need to eat a balanced diet – according to Susan, the oldest Walker sister: “Mother says I must give you plenty of lettuces and peas and things, or else you’ll all get scurvy. What is scurvy?” Never mind, the Swallows and Amazons learn to survive and flourish with whatever staples they have on hand.
The Murrys (Time Quintet). Rejected by twenty-six publishers before publication, A Wrinkle in Time – the first book of this series – went on to win the Newbery Medal for 1963. All praise for rejected, oddball literature! Wrinkle is an unusual rescue story, mixing fantasy with reality. L’Engle’s narrative introduces us to unlikely angels, a pulsating brain named IT (who threatens the very existence of humankind), and a young heroine who is neither confident nor powerful. In fearful times let us remember the angelic words of Mrs Which: “The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.”
The Pevensies (The Chronicles of Narnia). Here are stories of and for brave children. The Pevensie children are like any other family: they quarrel, they are greedy, they sometimes tell lies. But inside the wardrobe, they are kings and queens wielding real weapons. These children must rid the land of Narnia of a great evil. Aslan, the mighty lion, is their protector: “He’ll be coming and going. . . . One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down – and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” We can rest assured our God is dropping in on us often too.
Frodo Baggins and Sam Gangee (Middle-earth Universe). There are scary moments (our six-year-old crawls under the couch where he can still hear), but listeners have the security of knowing that all does come out well in the end. We are like hobbits. We need comfort. Still, when facing a menace, we never back down. Frodo expresses our thoughts as we shelter around our immediate family: “I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.” And when our worries for tomorrow overwhelm us, we can remember with hope that “The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming!”