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Wednesday, January 26, 2011


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As a parent, are you worried at all that the book's main characters trustingly go along with strangers who claim they're trying to help, and that the strangers tell them it's all part of a massive conspiracy and the children must therefore keep it all a secret from their parents? That kind of content is easy to overlook in an adventure story (like when reading Harry Potter it's easy to overlook the fact that Harry and his friends consistently disobey their caregivers to put themselves in extreme danger, and are inevitably rewarded for such behaviour.) One school of thought has it that anything that gets kids reading at all, these days, can't be all bad; but I, and some people I know, wonder if that's really the case. Of course it's always a good idea to make sure you know what kind of content your child is being exposed to and have a frank discussion about issues you find worrisome... but maybe some of these books should also have warnings. "Young Adult Fiction - warning: contains principal characters making extremely bad decisions and doing things you would just die if you knew YOUR kids were doing." What's your take?


Douglas, that is an excellent observation - the part about "don't tell your parents" is pretty specifically a red flag that should maybe be addressed...

But, after thinking about this issue kind of a lot - I first soul-searched myself about it when I reviewed Diary of a Wimpy Kid - I have come to the conclusion that only an unusually out-of-touch kid would use the behavior of kids in books (or movies or TV or games) as his or her touchstone about what's safe or appropriate. And if you've got that kid, you probably know it, and are used to handing out warnings and caveats already.

For most of us - adults AND kids - fiction is one of the blow-off valves whereby we can experience situations that we would never encounter (or hope to never encounter) in real life. I hope to never be trapped in a cave like Tom Sawyer, or chased by a guy on a motorcycle like the kids in this book, but it sure is fun to watch it happen, see how those kids react, wonder what I would do in the same place!

The behavior that I AM bothered by in children's books is inconsiderate, hurtful behavior that is presented as funny or cool. I dislike the mean girls in YA series fiction sniping and gossiping at each other, because I think that some girls will aspire to that kind of queen bee status. And I still do not care for Greg Heffley in the Wimpy Kid books getting away with being such a jerk, because I think little boys will come away thinking that being mean and obnoxious is funny.

On the other hand, it would probably take a miracle for little boys to stop seeing humor in obnoxiousness, so I have kind of stepped off my soapbox on this one. :)

Thanks for reading!

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