As a child I was a ferocious reader, and I would devour books at a rate of almost one per day. While that rate has decreased substantially as I’ve gotten older, I still love getting lost in a good story, and I’m always on the hunt for new adventures in literature. As such, I rarely read the same story twice, but there is one book that has always been my exception. I first read The Secret World of Og at the age of ten, and since then I have read it on average at least once a year. While the words never change, my appreciation for this story increases with each successive reading.
Published in 1961, The Secret World of Og was written by the Canadian author Pierre Burton, and was reportedly his favourite out of the 50 books he penned, because the characters were based on his own children. The Secret World of Og tells the story of five siblings whose names all begin with the letter “P”; Penny, Pamela, Peter, Patsy, and Paul, a baby boy who goes by the nickname of the Pollywog. One day while playing dress up, the Pollywog disappears through a trapdoor in the floor of the children’s Playhouse, and the remaining four follow him down into a world inhabited by little green creatures who only speak the word “Og”. Needless to say, all sorts of adventures ensue as the older siblings attempt to find and rescue their baby brother.
As a child, I was enchanted with the idea of a secret world hidden just below the ground, but more and more as I age, I have come to appreciate the multitude of layers to this story, and the depth of its message. On the surface, the story is a charming tale of make believe and the power and importance of imagination, but it is also a marvellous commentary on how children see the world and the art of growing up. All five of the main characters change dramatically as a direct result of their adventure, and the journey of their growth is wonderfully heartfelt. Even more endearing is the bond shared between the five children, as these siblings are incredibly close and care deeply for one another.
The Secret World of Og may be a children’s book, but it is written with a wit and humour that is clearly intended for the parents who may be reading along with their kids. I thought the book was funny as a child, but as an adult I frequently laugh out loud at some of the more pointed remarks. However, above all else, what keeps bringing me back to The Secret World of Og year after year, is the fact that the book has the miraculous ability to retain the whimsical wonder that I remember from when I was young, while simultaneously revealing a deeper meaning every time I read it. It is for this reason that The Secret World of Og is one of my all time favourite books, and I know I will always look forward to my yearly date with Og.