E is for Enchantment

500 Words on… Enchantment.

So many sweet memories lie within these pages, and beyond….

Enchantment and entrancement are both words I have always felt pulled toward. Maybe it’s because both tend to deal with what feels to me like a very personal, subjective experience.

So what is enchantment, and what value does it have?

Babies and very small children are very often enchanted – and enchanting to adults, although that is certainly not their intent. Their world is new, filled with discoveries, challenges, possibilities, and wonder.

They don’t have their world pigeonholed, yet. Without these defining labels, which place rigid frames around so much of the typical adult life, everything is fluid and ceaselessly changeable.

Enchanting portrait of a childhood friend….

Nearly everything in a young child’s life is an adventure. If they are well-cared for and given as much freedom as possible, they will move about a wide variety of activities, and learn and grow from each.

Before memory is cemented and continuous, things can be surprising and delightful even when they’ve happened before, because they have been forgotten, and so are happening as though for the first time, never losing their joy. As an infant, Jeremiah went into the most delightful rounds of chortling every time I made farm animal noises. He was also incredibly enchanted by vacuum cleaners.

Enchanting adventure!

A little later, after memory is more reliable, a child will find enchantment, in , what Annalise used to call again and again and again and AGAIN!” She fell in love with The New Adventures of Little Toot the summer she turned five. She watched it hundreds of times. She asked questions about geology, meteorology, music, and animals.

Enchantment on the Thames…..

She learned to sing all the music, and then choreographed dances. In order to get Jeremiah, who had trouble learning her steps when she demonstrated them, to dance with her, she drew a chart ordering the steps for him.

She gathered up an inflatable yellow dolphin, three stuffed dogs, three stuffed cats, a mechanical pelican, and a toy tugboat, and acted out scenes from the cartoon, then began improvising her own.

This map enchanted Annalise – and her mother. =)

She became fascinated by the story of Little Toot, and, when we found a copy of the 1939 original by Hardie Gramatky on Ebay, we bought it for less than $10, and spent hours reading it together, Annalise’s understanding of English through history, geography, watercraft, and art blossoming.

Eventually, we added Little Toot Through the Golden Gate; Little Toot on the Thames; and Little Toot on the Mississippi. And we learned more geography, history, other cultures, a rich vocabulary, double-digit numbers, bits of other languages, and so so much more….

San Francisco has long been a source of enchantment for both children.

I might have been so busy with my own life that I didn’t notice the enchantment of my four-year-old. The length of the fascination was a single summer, and then, quite suddenly, she had absorbed all she needed from it, and moved on.

I would have lost so much joy and connection, if I had missed it.

Thankfully, I have always been enchanted by children and how they learn, and I was paying attention – and her life, and mine, are richer because of that.

Mississippi Riverboat enchantment.


  1. Ah, Shanjeniah, I wrote a long comment, but I think it disappeared when I went to WordPress. 😦 Wanted to say what an incredible mother and writer you are, and I hope I can delight in my grandkids’ enchantment as much as I did in my kids’.

    And how touched I am to read your comments about my DAD (Hardie Gramatky) and his alter-ego, Little Toot. Dad remained an enthusiastic, childlike (not childish) person all his life, and I can remember his excitement showing me that red sun against a gray sky or a tortoise in the local brook. He died 33 years ago this April and he remains alive in his watercolors, his children’s books and in the hearts of our family.

    Thanks too for the lovely comments about the Little Toot sequels. Coincidentally, in the past couple of weeks a friend and an agent in NYC have both suggested perhaps bringing back the sequels as e-books. I love to hold a book, but when I’ve tried to interest publishers in reprinting them, one comment I got was that Americans don’t want to buy books about “foreign countries” like the places Little Toot traveled (London, Venice and Scotland, as well as the Mississippi and San Francisco)! The idea that with e-books these 5 sequels (and the eight other books Dad wrote and illustrated) might be able to bring enchantment to another generation of children is so appealing.

    Love to you, and thanks for everyone’s lovely comments. Linda (Gramatky Smith)

    • Linda – You brought tears to my eyes. Lise is making pancakes with her Daddy – tomorrow, iwill read her your letter.

      I think ebooks would be wonderful! The art would sparkle, and there are many children who love language and faraway places and simple enchantment.

      Thank you for you sweet words, and for sharing your Dad with us! =D

      I want to write something longer; I will come back to it. I have some things to share with you – pictures, other things I’ve written, and, somewhere, 26 questions she asked during one reading of Little Toot on the Thames. The choreography chart she made.

      • Oh, I would just love to answer any of Annalise’s 26 questions AND I may have some questions to go back to her! This is a busy weekend for everyone, but let’s do it in the near future. And I have a VHS tape (do you still have a player, by any chance?) of an animated Little Toot and the Loch Ness Monster that looks exactly like Dad’s watercolors, and I’d love to send it to her. I know she’s more grown up now, but it is enchanting the way Shelley Duvall had it animated.

        Love to your family and your wonderful readers. Hugs, Linda

        • Linda – I read her your first post, earlier, and it has sparked renewed interest in Little Toot. She is nearly 8 now, and well on her way to independent reading.

          We don’t have the Scotland and Venice books, but now she would like them.

          She’s had her watercolors out a lot the last two days, and today she made a picture of Little Toot. It was accidentally crumpled before I saw it, but I take pictures of a lot of both kids’ creations, and I will preserve this one and share.

          She’s excited about the video – and yes, we still have two DVD/VCRs, and shelves of seldom viewed, but still treasured, videotapes, despite YouTube and Netflix!

          My email address is memismommy(at) yahoo (dot) com….if you drop me a line there, I will share those other pieces of Annalise’s Little Toot days with you.

          I am so glad you found me, and shared your story. Lise might be just a bit young to fully appreciate the treasure that is, but her mother is not. =)

  2. Oh, I’m so in love with children. Indeed mine keep me young. I grow with their every milestone. My daughter is near dating age and I’m excited and nervous for her. I know the day she brings home her first date will be mine, too!

    Kids are so full of magic and wonder and love, we really should remember that and live so free ourselves!

    A to Z co-host

  3. What an enchanting page. 🙂
    I’m so happy you linked to my Perfect Picture Book Friday post on Little Toot because it caused me to discover your lovely blog.:)
    Come and see what we are up to…every Friday we I review a children’s picture book, provide a related craft project with other resources for parents and teachers and then link up with picture book author Susannah Leonard Hill and a couple dozen other writers, illustrators, librarians and others who also do the same. You’ll find so many resources and activities…and a great community of writers. 🙂

    • Vivian –

      I will share this with Annalise, if she’s in a bookish place tomorrow. She has been, the last few days, as she figures out more and more of this reading thing…..but tomorrow could be for other things….

  4. Great post Shan. So sweet and ‘enchanting’. I will go through IVF for the third time, this year. Hope I’m as lucky to have such experiences. You’re bless, so are those kiddies too, it would seem 🙂

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