Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Denial is a rubbish place to grow up in...

Did a school visit yesterday reading the new picture book, The House That Went to Sea. I shared the floor with the book's fabtastic illustrator Gabriella Klepatski. The children were great, keen to know about writing and illustrating and its always a blast for me to read my books aloud and talk about ideas. After, we met up with the publisher and had a look at the I-pad app being produced for the book. It had cool sound effects and looked great and I am excited to see how this goes. Embracing the new technology is thrilling and a little scary as there are still things I don't know yet about how it all works in terms of production, distribution, marketing and sales but its fantastic to be joining the adventure (I feel a bit like Michael Mariner in my story).

I have been reading the debate over this recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the darkness of teen fiction. My teen thriller out in December has a dark edge. Not as dark as some of the books Gurdon references but there are some difficult themes and tragic events in my story. I like this response from award winning author Sherman Alexie, who has himself written about some very challenging themes. I believe we should protect our children as best we can but I don't think we should pretend bad things don't happen. If we do, we divide ourselves. The world can be a harsh place and if we deny this, how are we helping our youngsters to protect themselves in the future. Denial is a rubbish place to grow up in. Isn't it better to share these things so that those who have suffered know they are not alone and see a way to survive and overcome and those who haven't suffered can understand those who have? I'm not saying all teen books should be dark or that all dark books are good, well written or worth reading but there are a lot that are and it would be a travesty to deny them a place in our book shops or on our bookshelves.

I am studying Patterns of Language this year for my Children's Lit Diploma at Canterbury University and am currently reading about the chants and rhymes used by children in primary school playgrounds. Alot of these chants talk about trouser snakes, babies and cruelty. In one of the readings (Grugeon, E. "Underground Knowledge:What the Opies Missed." English in Education, pp9-17) the writer says one of the crucial factors in the survival of these games (some of which are very bawdy and explicit) in the culture of childhood is that they challenge and defy adult conventions, provide ammunition for resistance and permit a shared exploration of areas of experience which are considered to be taboo or irrelevant for young children. Many of the commentators on the topic talk about how these chants and rhymes belong to the children and are performed and passed on without adult knowledge or interference. Even little children are talking about difficult topics when they are left to their own devices. We are kidding ourselves if we think not talking about things is going to protect our children. I would rather have the opportunity to discuss something difficult with my children that they have come across in a book. Excluding a topic does not make my children safe.

No comments: