Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The resolution?

or try this:


I’ve been having the devil’s own problems with this post (don’t ask – I have actually written it 4 times and been attempting to put in a link and transfer HTML thingies, and it keeps vanishing!

I am so over it, so this time, I’ve started in Word (so I don’t have to all the writing part again if it goes astray) and we’ll see.

I’m so dispirited by my lack of techno savvy I’ve just left the empty post up – and this was after saving and saving and saving! (I learned my lesson about that many years ago!)

I’m going to try and reproduce the immortal prose of earlier posts. In which I bemoaned the state of children’s literature. Presumably the previous posts have now migrated around the blogosphere and will come to roost in someone’s blog about Japanese carpentry techniques of the 15th century or something!

This all started because I took a quiz on the Golden Compass movie website to find my daemon (find the link yourself- I’m too scared to try and post it!)

Turns out my daemon is a tiger called Thaleron and I thought this was cool. Sheere Khan in Jungle Book (the real version with WORDS, not the Disney movie) was always my favourite, so I decided this made me a tiger – ie sleeping in the shade and scaring small children!

This then led me to reminiscing about my favourite children’s classics – Jungle Book, Alice, Wind in the Willows, Swallows and Amazons, Horse with the Green Nose and others. Then the modern classics – Alan Garner, Joan Aiken, Tamora Pierce, Andre Norton, John Flanagan, Eoin Colfer, Phillip Pullman, JK Rowling and so on.

I also bemoaned the fact that many modern award winning children’s books seem to involve incest, abuse, drug taking, sex, violence and so on. I agree that these things really happen, but is it absolutely necessary for children to be forced to read books containing these subjects, and why can’t we promote values of adventurousness, courage, responsibility, curiosity and independence, as illustrated by many of the classics.

Granted, many also contain traces of racism, colonialism and sexism, but many don’t and by ignoring books of this type, we take away the wonder, excitement and beauty contained in them. This came to a head for me when I discovered a picture book which won all sorts of awards written about the war in the former Yugoslavia and the rape and disappearance of the narrator’s mother and sisters, death violence and war. I really didn’t feel such a book was that great for an audience of 3 to 7ish year olds. It had, of course, won lots of awards.

Now I am totally against censorship. But can’t we make space for promoting books containing wonder and beauty, and do we really need to give all the awards to books showing only the ugliness of ‘real’ life? Can’t we allow children space to be innocent and children?

So, strike a blow for fantasy and read a child a book from the classics – read them Milly-Molly-Mandy, or Winnie-the-Pooh. Read it now!

Here endeth the Rant!


2paw said...

Nice rant, you have my sympathy about the lost posts, that's why I decided to pay for my blog: could not bear the losses!!
I agree, there is far too much adult content and concepts in children's books, far too early. There is nothing wrong with a children's book for children, and the No War for Thingy Book was awful. I didn't want to read it. I cry at the Sadako Crane stories, and the Suitcase book too. There should be a much clearer demarcation between children's and YA literature. Often even YA books are more heart redning and confronting than Adult books. I loved Enid Blyton, The Chalet School, Trixie Belden etc as a child but I moved on to read adult books quite quickly. I shall read The Labradors a happy story tonight!!!

Taphophile said...

AA Milne should be read on an annual basis, if not oftener. Also LM Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Richmal Crompton, EB White, Mary Norton, E Nesbit, Ivan Southall, Colin Thiele, Norman Lindsay and May Gibbs.

My nearly 13 year old niece's favourite Christmas present this year? A biography of Julie Andrews!

Bells said...

oh you are so right. Really, you are. Gritty books are all well and good and you know, I loved Judy Blume, but there was more to her than that.

Bring back the magic!

Alwen said...

I remember in the old days they used to carefully Bowdlerize books for children, like the Arabian Nights, and take all the gritty parts out!

Our son (age 8) got 5 Hardy boys mysteries and a copy of "Magic by the Lake" by Edward Eager.

I do like some of the YA series, like Angie Sage's Septimus Heap books. And I guess a lot of Diana Wynne Jones' books show up in YA, from my recent shopping at the bookstore.

Donna Lee said...

I have an (almost)complete set of Bobbsey Twins books from my childhood. I pulled them out for m girls and they didn't translate well to modern society. too much gender stereotyping. We have read all the Pooh books and the Pullman books and the Tolkien books and the .....Fantasy is wonder and awe and what's wrong with that?

Donna Lee said...

By the way, the link works and I took the daemon test. I, too, am a tiger named Nithreus. I cannot copy the code onto my blog. It won't let me copy and paste. I'll have to try it some more at home.

Amy Lane said...

Urrggh!!! I hate lost posts, and I really hate it when blogger just gulps up my photos...

And you and I are totally on the same plane when it comes to children's/YA literature... (but then you knew that:-)

kms said...

my favourite kids books are still things like the secret seven and famous fives, i cant imagine reading some of the things that passes for childrens books these days. true, some of them are hilarious and clever (eg, the ones about farting) and there is a time and place for real life stories, but not in childhood. i read a great 'childrens' book a couple of years ago (probly aimed at kids a bit older than yours) and it is one of my favourite reads ever, michael chabons 'summerland'. a good message, modern, but still with a heart. highly recommended.

MadMad said...

I am so glad you took the time to rewrite this because it is all so true. A couple of years ago, my daughter's fourth grade teacher took me aside at pick up to tell me that my daughter had seemed a little "disturbed and shaken" by the pictures of Jews being led into the gas chambers in some novel they were reading. Gee. I can't imagine why. And she said "disturbed and shaken" like this was my daughter's fault. I don't understand why every book she brings home has to do with death, destruction, drugs, rape... I don't remember reading about those things all. the. time!

Kate_knits_a_bit said...

ok, I'm coming from a teacher-librarian perspective here, having run a school library for 5 to 18yr olds - what I saw was that kids wanted to read entertaining, exciting, accessible books. Age, gender and personality differences drove reading choices. While one child would adore the Bum books, another would be desperately involved in My Story historical faction novels. Gritty, realism or issues-based novels were generally more interesting for older children/teens who were trying to work out what they thought about various aspects of living in the real world. Tragic war stories do not make reading a fun thing for struggling readers. Some serious issues are very popular with young children, like losing grandparents or pets, or the kinds of social troubles common in schools.
Personally, I am a HUGE fantasy fan, have always been, always will be; I buy fun, bright, happy, exciting books for my children, and am watching with joy as my 7 yr old son works his way through both Enid Blyton and Emily Rhodda (Deltora Quest). I encourage them to borrow information books on topics that catch their interest. I read to them, with them and without them, I make up stories with them, and let them loose in the local library whenever I can.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if every home had a huge bookcase stuffed with books, old and new, fact and fantasy, where the kids could pick their daily stories (or be sent to find something to fix the complaint of "I'm bored!"!!)
May you never lack for something to read.

Kate_knits_a_bit said...

ps sorry that was so huge. I forgot to do a word count :P

Penni said...

Hmmmn. My Dog? Deceptive title really isn't it? I have used it with a Grade 11/12 English Communications class with some success but can't imagine sharing it with littlies. I'm a great fan of the classics, I adore Anne of Greengables and delighted in the fact that my middle name is Anne with an 'e' (OK did I say delighted? I STILL point it out regularly), but I love a lot of modern children's literature too.

Hi, by the way. I'm a friend of Kate's and since she talks about you a lot, I thought I'd wander over and say hi.

Five Ferns Fibreholic said...

If you are looking for something modern, award winning, fun and totally kid friendly, I suggest anything by http://robertmunsch.com/. Start with "Love you Forever"...but read it with a hankie, you'll need it.

I read a lot growing up and treasure the time I spent with the classics. I recently read Charlotte's Web to my two youngest, they loved it. Just goes to show you that the best stories really never go out of style or become old and unworthy.