Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Book Review: The Seven~Year~Old Wonder Book

(How'd ya know, Donna!?!) This is a magical book just right for the child in the 7th year (age 6 and turning age 7), but could certainly work its wonder on children a bit younger and much older. What I really like about this book is that it appeals so thoroughly to the imagination with such innocence, yet deals with archetypes that speak strongly to children.

There are 15 chapters in this book. It has a unique formula that I have yet to come across elsewhere, but it's absolutely wonderful and I wish more writers would incorporate it. Each chapter begins with our main character, who is a little girl named Sylvia. Sylvia is much like our own children and she has adventures that children can relate to. This makes her character very appealing and meaningful to the little ones who hear this story, and to the parents or caretakers/teachers telling it.

Whatever Sylvia experiences, her mother weaves a magical fairytale around, and brings healing to it. At the end of the story, Sylvia gets out her "Wonder Book" and chants a *magic spell* over it, asking the Rhyme Elves to come work their magic in her book.

"Rhyme-Elves, rich in ringing words
Won from winds and waves and birds,
Lisping leaves and rustling rain,
Sing-sing-for me again!"

When Sylvia awakens, she rushes to her book and jumps into her mothers bed and they open the book to find a beautiful illustration and a poem relating to the story she had heard the night before. It's absolutely brilliant!

So in chapter 1, "Sylvia and the Sick Toys", Sylvia is playing in a tree and falls out and hurts her leg. Her mother lovingly bandages her up. Sylvia bandages her own dolls and stuffed animals (how many of our children have done this!) and then Sylvia's mother tells her a story called "The Story of the Crippled Wood Maiden" which is about a wood maiden who could no longer run and dance with the other wood maidens after she hurt her leg. One stormy night, she hears a knock at her door and opens it to find an old woman in need of shelter. She welcomes the old woman in, feeds her and the old woman asks her what wish she has. The crippled wood maiden responds that she should like to be able to run and dance with the others again. The old crone tells her how to make this wish come true. She tells her that in the Land of the Singing Sky, there is a fountain of dew. One sip of this dew would heal her leg. To find it, she must go to the silver ladder which hangs down from the full moon.

When the crippled wood maiden goes to the ladder, she meets a beautiful lady who tells her to return with six others in need of healing. So the wood maiden posts messages on the trunks of trees to find others who need healing. Seven days before the next full moon, others begin to come, one a day. On the last day, when the crippled wood maiden sits with six others in need of healing, there is one more knock on the door. She opens the door to find a poor water-nixie with a wounded throat from the pierce of a swordfish. The compassionate wood maiden can not turn away the water-nixie so she welcomes her in.

On the night of the full moon, they find the silver ladder and climb to the top. The crippled wood maiden cups her hands and receives exactly seven drops of dew. The beautiful woman reminds her that she may only have seven drops, though there are eight that need healing. Which one is to go without? All around them, every star is singing and joyful, singing children fly among the stars on rosy wings. The crippled wood maiden wishes that she could fly among the stars like that.

The wood maiden looks at the others and selflessly declares, "I will go without myself."

So she gives a drop of dew to each of the seven others and then looks down into her empty hands. The beautiful lady calls to her, "Little wood-maiden, come and dance with me!"

The wood maiden replies, "I cannot dance. I am a cripple."

But the beautiful lady encourages her to try and the wood maiden grabs for the outstretched hand just as rainbow coloured spray from the fountain of dew falls about her and she begins to dance! She is miraculously healed and so happy! But when she stops dancing, she notices that the others who were healed are gone, as is the full moon, the singing children/stars and the silver ladder. She begins to cry, wondering how she will get down to her little home!

And the beautiful lady cries replies, "Why not use your wings?"

The wood maiden looks behind her and sees that she has been bestowed magic rosy wings, like the happy singing children had and she spreads them wide. She may now come every night to the fountain of dew. She has found her wings! So she flies down to her house and joins the other wood maidens in their dancing and song. Isn't that lovely!

Sylvia's mother tucks her into bed and tells her that she flies among the stars every night, even if she doesn't remember. Sylvia gets out her Wonder Book and says her rhyme and then goes to bed. The next morning, sure enough, the Rhyme Elves have come and left her a beautiful picture and a lovely poem about the Crippled Wood Maiden. Not only that, but Sylvia's leg is much better and she discovers that her injured dolls and stuffed animals have been healed, as well! She rushes into her mothers bed and they look at the pictures and read the beautiful poem left by the Rhyme Elves.

There are 15 beautiful chapters in this book like this. This book ties into the seasons with a chapter about "The Dragon in the Sky"(Michaelmas), "Sylvia's Turnip-Lantern" (Harvest/Halloween), "Sylvia's Advent Wreath"(Advent), "The Visit of St. Nicholas"(St.Nick), two on Christmas and one for her 7th birthday. So I imagine this book could be used as an annual seasonal read, being brought out again to read around fall and every year, the birthday chapter could be read the night before your child's birthday, etc.

I loved how connected Sylvia and her mother are, infused with attachment parenting themes, like co-sleeping, snuggling, endless hugs and ideal mothering. I also love how this book encourages imagination and spirituality. It nurtures children on the cusp of the big 7 Year Change.

I had started reading this in the fall, then realized a couple chapters in, that I liked it so much, I wanted to make a Wonder Book for the girls. I went to the crafting shop and bought poster board and a big sketch pad. I made a cover with the poster board and a crafting knife and carefully removed pages from the sketch pad. I will thread the book through once all the entries by the Rhyme Elves have been made. The girls love it and check the book every time we read a story. They insist on saying the magical chant over the book so that the Rhyme Elves come and the Rhyme Elves have even been *accused* of cleaning up toys in the night that we forgot to put away before bed :D

So here are some shots of our book...

I also needle felted a few characters for the first story (the crippled Wood Maiden, the Old Woman, and the Beautiful Lady)...

And this is where the book is usually now left on the nights we read a story from "The Seven~Year~Old Wonder Book" by Isabel Wyatt.

I definitely consider this book a classic and one we will return to throughout the I will save for my future grandchildren! So I highly recommend "The Seven~Year~Old Wonder Book" by Isabel Wyatt. If you've read this book, or any that I will be listing, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it! Feel free to share by leaving a comment!


  1. I so love how you did the felted dolls to go with the story its is really enchanting. They are so beautiful. Challee kind of struggled with it when I tried to share this book with her. I wish I had done it like you and drew the pictures, I was having us do them together. I like your idea much better! Ive been looking forward to sharing it with Emma but as Im reading your post I wonder if even though Challee is a lot older if I could still share it with her. She might appreciate the stories more now.

  2. Jane, thanks for sharing your experience with the book. I wonder how Challee (what a beautiful name, btw) would feel about it now, so please post back and let me know if you end up sharing it with her again! You are such an artist, Jane, I really bet you could do amazing illustrations. I keep thinking that as I attempt to draw - those with the gift could just do something absolutely amazing! But I love that Waldorf just embraces each of us as an "artist". We moms have to pave the way for our children, no matter how talented (or not) we are - lol!

    I hope Emma enjoys it. It really spoke to my kids and they do ask for it & bring it up on a regular basis throughout the days, so it's been a really good fit! I wonder if Challee (not sure how old she is) would like to read it to her sister ~ maybe that would resonate more? Or if she got involved in the illustrations again to surprise her little sis??? Please keep me updated Jane! Or will you use the book you and Challee made together?!? That is certainly a lovely idea and what a special book you shall always have to treasure!

  3. I purchased this book for my daughter's 7th birthday. We have been reading it together since then. We, or should I say, I love this book. It is truly beautiful! My daughter just wants to read it cover to cover. So I have to take it a chapter at a time. Let it sit in her for a while. So yes, we adore this book. Just so well thought out.

  4. Thanks for writing such a detailed summary of the book! I have been thinking about purchasing this book and your review really gave me a much better sense of the book. Your felt creations are beautiful!