The other night I was reading The Dark by Lemony Snickett to our Offspring. We bought it a couple of years ago for First Offspring, in the hopes that reading it might help conquer his fear of the dark. (It didn’t.) It’s really not a scary book, even though parts of it do seem a bit scary to me. I have a sense of foreboding when I read it, but I don’t think that’s the book’s fault. I think it’s my own experiences with films and books which leads me to think that something bad is going to happen (even when I’ve read the book before and know that everything is going to be fine. It’s a children’s book, after all).
In any case, I don’t read it in a scary voice, and I asked, when we got to the part when the boy stands at the top of the stairs, and looks down into the dark, ‘Do you think it’s scary?’ to Second, Third and Fourth Offspring. ‘No,’ they replied, shrugging off the very idea.
I’ve read a lot in my life. I remember (or remember being told) that I came home the first day of Year One and was disgusted because it was just like preschool. ‘We didn’t even learn to read!‘ five-year-old me exclaimed.
But once I did learn to read, I was hooked. I devoured the home reading books from school. I read all the books in the bookshelf, whether or not they belonged to me (except Trixie Beldon. Never really got into them) and asked for more for birthday and Christmas. At high school, I would read our English class novel within the first week and then beg friends in other classes to lend me theirs. I remember my mother throwing up her arms in frustration at sixteen-year-old me, when, on the morning I was due to travel overseas for six weeks, I was sat at the kitchen table trying to finish Tandia so that I didn’t have to take it on the plane (I only had 30 pages or so, and I wanted to be able to leave it behind so that I could take another book. Space was at a premium in those pre-Kindle days).
A couple of weeks ago, the Handsome Sidekick put on a movie for our Offspring to watch. It was Paper Planes, an Australian film about a boy trying to make it to the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. It’s a sweet story, if a little cheesy at times, and there were some elements with which I could really identify, having grown up in country Australia. We thought our Offspring might also enjoy it. As it began, though, Second Offspring noted that the main character was a boy, and said, ‘Why do these movies always have boys in them? Why not girls?’ and I replied, ‘I KNOW, Second Offspring! I have asked myself the same question, when it comes to stories.’
I’ve always loved books, so when I had children, of course I planned to read to them. I had a whole list of titles I’d read as a child and enjoyed, and I looked forward to sharing them with the next generation. A trip to the local library also revealed that in the many years since I had read young children’s books–or had them read to me–there had been literally thousands of new books written for children. I (and my children) were spoilt for choice!
However, I soon discovered that just because there were a lot of books for children, that didn’t mean that they were all good. In fact, I was dismayed at just how many really rubbish children’s books there were. They were dull, they had no storyline, they didn’t rhyme (when it was apparent that they were supposed to). They were absolutely, astonishingly, bad literature.