Posts tagged ‘commentary’

COMMENTARY: Children’s Literature–Vampires & Body Functions

Captain Underpants or Cat in the Hat?

Twilight or Anne of Green Gables?

Why is one book twaddle, and the other a classic?

Let’s start with a simple question. Were you eager to read Captain Underpants to your child, or Cat in the Hat? I think Dr. Seuss will get that vote every time. Silly, colorful, sometimes nonsensical, Seuss books have a story, a sense of fun that appealed to us, stuck with us, and which we then are eager to share with our kids.

We buy Twilight after being begged by our kids because all the other kids are reading it or watching the movie, “at least my kid wants to read." We buy Anne of Green Gables because we loved the book as a child. Vampires are a passing fad. Captain Underpants is only fun to a kid at a certain age.

In other words, the stories of books like Anne of Green Gables or Cat in the Hat linger in our lives.

Two of the teens in my public speaking class last year had a blast doing a duo interpretation of Are You My Mother? It was fantastic! Even as teens they simply enjoyed sharing the story of the book. Can you imagine a teen doing an interpretation of, say, Everyone Poops (without it being a deliberate mockery)?


My teenage daughter recently mentioned how annoying it is when adults try to act cool. When they do something and it just turns out un-cool, she pointed out, that was funny. She said it is completely different when an adult tries to be cool, to act like a teen. Very teenager-y of Leah to say, and very wise.

I think the same is true with books. A history textbook specifically designed to teach is dull, whereas a book that tells the story of history is a classic. [I do think a story can and should teach. We still enjoy Aesop’s fables, for instance.] A book like Twilight merely capitalizes on a passing fad, whereas Anne of Green Gables touches you with its story. A book like Captain Underpants or a movie like Shrek is specifically designed to entertain kids with body function humor, whereas Cat in the Hat and Are You My Mother tell funny stories that linger.

Children’s authors should quit trying to teach or to make kids laugh or touch their hearts, and simply let the stories do their own teaching and entertaining and touching of lives.

The authors of the classics all did.

For Christmas, I recently bought Make Way for Ducklings for my niece, Zoe. Why? Because I remember, even as an older child, pulling the book off the shelf when I happened to see it in the library and giving it a quick re-read, running my fingers over the pictures. Plus, we were in Boston at the time of the purchase, which was cool, since the story takes place in Boston. In other words, the book was meaningful to me and I wanted to share it with her.

Don’t tell Zoe!


P.S. What children’s books do you consider to be classics? Please comment!


Commentary: Violent Children’s Literature

A lady on one of my homeschooling forums recently posted a request for suggestions for nonviolent children’s literature. I wholeheartedly support her quest.

But (you knew there had to be a but) I had some thoughts to share, and I’m going to share those thoughts here with some additions slight changes. I’d love to hear what you have to say on the issue.

I have a friend who deliberately allows her teenage boys to read violent books, watch violent movies or play violent video games WITH the caveat that in their selections good is good and evil is evil, and that her boys are on the side of good in the games. Choices like that video game where the goal is to steal a car and get away from the cops are NOT allowed.

Her logic in this is that they are growing up in a culture where they may one day be in a position to fight for good over evil, and to protect their families. She wants that to be a part of their character.

My own logic is that this is a part of the world. Think about the hero of the Old Testament who hammered the enemy’s head to the ground with a tent peg! I’d much rather talk about the violence in the world with my 14yo daughter than for her to find herself in a real-life situation where she has to make decisions with no character to draw on. If the reading selections are bringing up good, character-building discussions, I’m pleased.

(I feel the same way about the boy-girl thing. We don’t read or watch sexual material, nor allow our daughter to do so, but I’m not like my friend who will not allow her girls to see or read anything with boy-girl content. If one of my dd’s choices leads to a discussion of how a character’s feelings were hurt or another character focused on romance instead of godly love…I’m pleased.)

Plus, from a storytelling perspective, there MUST be conflict, or there is no story. Of course, it doesn’t have to be violent conflict. And any goriness does not have to be described in detail by the author, either. I have to admit, there were sections of Homer we skipped for that reason. War, war, war, gory stuff happens…yada, yada. We didn’t need to dwell on it!

All of this is just my opinion, and it is absolutely crucial for her to do what her children need. (For instance, we avoid stories with animals that get hurt or die for my particular daughter. They cause her to fall apart.) I applaud both of my friends AND the mom who posted for nonviolent material for seeking God’s best for the children He has given each of them.