How the Seed of Childhood Trauma Can Bloom Into Something Beautiful

Reflections on my love/hate relationship with ‘Watership Down’

Walter Rhein
The Book Cafe
Published in
8 min readJun 13, 2024

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Image by Walter Rhein — Drawings and lettering by his daughter

I can’t remember the first book I read to my kids. It might have been something predictable like Where the Wild Things Are, or In the Night Kitchen. However, it’s more likely to have been a semi-inappropriate choice like There’s a Hair in My Dirt — the comical “children’s” book by Far Side Creator Gary Larson.

I read a lot of things to my girls that were more for my benefit than theirs. After all, what did it matter? They didn’t have a well-developed vocabulary, at least not in the early days. How much of The Hobbit could I really expect them to understand?

“Daddy, what does that word mean?”

“Girls, if you stop and ask me for the definition of every word then this is going to be torture.”

We fell into a nice routine. I picked what I wanted to read, and the girls were lulled to sleep by the sound of my voice. What I didn’t realize at the time is how smart kids are, and how much they not only remember but understand.

So it was that I made the mistake of choosing Watership Down as bedtime reading material way too early. The result was somewhat traumatic, but the experience of my children was nothing…

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Walter Rhein
The Book Cafe

I have 10+ years experience as a certified English and Physics teacher. 20+ years of experience as an editor, journalist, blogger and novelist.