A man eating lunch at a restaurant notices an attractive woman at another table, and is immediately drawn to her beauty. His heart stirs, and he finds himself wanting to see her again.
It is routinely pointed out that about half of all marriages end in divorce. But what is not often discussed is the other half of the equation: the marriages that don't break up. Are those marriages thriving? Do married couples that stay together feel truly close to one another? Do they achieve true, lasting, personal intimacy?
Fairy tale and modern fantasy stories project fantastic other worlds; but they also pay close attention to real moral "laws" of character and virtue. By portraying wonderful and frightening worlds in which ugly beasts are transformed into princes and evil persons are turned to stones and good persons back to flesh, fairy tales remind us of moral truths whose ultimate claims to normativity and permanence we would not think of questioning.
Like travel books broaden the mind. They give us a bigger picture of the world and its inhabitants. One result is that we become better judges of character. By meeting certain character types in stories we are better prepared for the day when we will meet that type in person.
Concepts such as virtue, good example, and character have been out of fashion in our society for quite some time, and their absence is reflected in the available guidebooks to childrens literature. What is missing from these guides what seems to be avoided is any suggestion that certain books may help to develop character, and that others may not. The distinctive feature of this book, by contrast, is its focus on the moral dimension of reading.