November 11, 2014

Spotlight Author: The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly, Adam's Alphabet, and other works by Reg Down

by Eileen HoRSSAA Librarian

The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly
by Reg Down (2004)
The Bee who lost his Buzz
Pumpkin Crow
Lucy Goose and the Half-egg

Tiptoes Lightly lives in an acorn high in the branches of a Great Oak Tree. Her tree sits on a knoll overlooking Running River, and she and her friends have a host of adventures. First they help the bee who lost his buzz – snagged on a thorn belonging to grumpy Mr. Cactus! Then they visit the house of Pine Cone and Pepper Pot and sail down to the sea to untangle Octopus – he’s too young to count his legs properly and gets them mixed up!
Later they journey to Snowy Mountain to hear from Jack Frost what kind of being he really is – and Jack tells the dramatic tale of how he came to be. Finally, after many adventures big and small they find out who the real mother of the half-egg is – the one that Lucy Goose found in the mud and is determined to hatch along with her own eggs.
Lavishly illustrated by the author-artist, these are simple, innocent and magical tales set in nature. Humorous, reverent, sanguine and droll, they are suitable for reading to young children (kindergarten to grade 3) or for young children to read (grades 1 – 4). Soft cover; 104 pages. [from]
*Adam's Alphabet
by Reg Down (2014)
Adam and Sophia are twins. Sophia has wings and Adam doesn’t. One day their parents leave. “Don’t go into the forest,” they said, but Adam did - he gave his word and broke it. Now he is lost and alone, and his voice is gone. Sophia flies overhead and drops a piece of paper. It flutters into the forest. Except for a lock of hair the paper is blank. Immediately, adventures and experiences unfold for Adam, some common, some extraordinary, some unearthly and beautiful. Letters appear on the paper as Adam wakes up to his ‘alphabet’. Slowly, painfully, joyously Adam wins his word back. 
Adam’s Alphabet is an alphabet tale unlike any written before. Multilayered and broad, it reads as a children’s book, but underneath run deeper waters that adults can also plumb for profit and pleasure if they take delight in the spoken word. Individual chapters: Preface and Ch.1Ch.2Ch.3, ... see the Stories and Tales page for more sample chapters. Adam’s Alphabet is suitable for children aged 7 to 12. Paperback; 140 pages.
*Adam's Alphabet was recently added to the RSSAA Library Wishlist. The author discusses this book in the following article: 
Adam’s Alphabet: Deepening the Experience of the Written and Spoken Word
By Reg Down
[from weekly newsletter Waldorf Today, Issue 41:11/10/2014]

Earlier this year I published a ‘children’s book’, Adam’s Alphabet. On the surface it is a tale that centers on grade 3 or 4 and reaches up and down a grade or two from there. But it is more than just a story. It portrays, in a form suitable for children, the deeper aspects of the alphabet and its roots in the spoken word.

Adam and Sophia are twins. Sophia has wings and Adam doesn’t. They live on a mountain surrounded by an endless forest. One day their parents go away. Adam and Sophia promise not to go into the forest—but Adam breaks his word. He is lost and his power of speech has gone. After three days Sophia flies overhead, calling his name. She drops a piece of paper which, with the exception of a lock of her hair, is blank. From that point on Adam undergoes a series of experiences in nature, and as he wakens to the inner content of each experience a letter appears on Sophia’s paper. Adam realizes he is being (re)taught the alphabet. As the alphabet unfolds his interaction with other human beings increases and he is shown ever deeper secrets of existence. Finally he completes the alphabet and begins to read the book of nature and the human soul. His speech returns and he finds his parents and Sophia again.

Adam read the word of nature,
All nature in him spoke

The understanding behind Adam’s Alphabet is that each letter refers not only to a sound of speech but also to the sculptural, forming-shaping process of sound creation in the air by our larynx and mouth, including the underlying artistic feeling and sensibility, well known to poets, which accompanies this process. Far from being what is normally taken as a more or less abstract phoneme, the activity of shaping speech finds its correspondence within nature and in aspects of the human being not usually associated with language, including our soul-spiritual aspect. Numerous examples, both obvious and subtle, are woven into the story itself. Experienced Waldorf teachers will instantly recognize the contribution of eurythmy to this picture of language.

The alphabet has wholeness; it is an integrated, meaningful organism. Granted, it is a little tattered by all the separate influences flowing into English. Nevertheless it is complete enough to recognize its essential nature. This aspect, even though, as a eurythmist, I have worked with the alphabet’s sound gestures for decades, was again brought home to me when I put the experience into literary form. There is a process, a path, a quest undergone as we move from A to Z. The initial sounds are elemental and childlike; the later sounds older, more mature, even apocalyptic. In between there is a shifting balance between world and self, moving from the direct and clearly stated (F and H, for instance), to the complex and nuanced (M or Q, for instance). Each letter-sound is a mode of learning and experiencing. As a result, Adam is changed as he travels through the alphabet. He undergoes an initiation.

When explored in this way, we sense that human language is only one facet of a much larger complex, a gestalt which is, ultimately, a unified, self-determining being. If we name it properly out of the Western tradition it is the Word or Logos. From this point of view the Word evolved man and nature coherently and concurrently. What is spread out in nature is found in the human being, and the essence of the human being is found in language, in the word.

I am hoping that class teachers will recognize in this book a means of both summarizing and deepening all that their children have experienced with respect to the alphabet while grappling with the process of writing and reading.

The human being is born out of the word, and while the child is learning to read and write he or she should instinctively sense that they are connecting with deeper aspects of themselves as becoming beings. By the time they have begun, or passed, the nine-year change they will be able to revisit and renew their feeling for, and understanding of, the alphabet.

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