A while back, some guy said:
Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.
Liberals take this very seriously. That is why children’s literature now sucks so bad.
Evolutiontheorist left a humorous and insightful comment on my post about the children’s book The Tooth:
“I’ve noticed that the children’s book world is full of sentimental/boring works that only adults would be interested in. Every time I go to the library, it seems like I come home with at least one book that looked good, but turns out to be about a kid who’s pet died or a bird whose best friend turned out to be a snowball and then melted. Or about how the author grew up in poverty but it’s okay because they liked eating paint. (I am not making that up.)
Kids like books about cheeky toy trains, hoppy bunnies, funny superheroes, or grand adventures. They like rainbows and unicorns and swashbuckling pirates. They do not want to hear about how if you eat too much candy, you might have to go to the dentist and get a tooth pulled, for goodness’s sakes.”
If you don’t think that there is any particular agenda behind this, listen to the following children’s story.
Moral of the story: It’s fun being married to a cross-dresser!
But it isn’t (just) the liberal/SJW agenda that I’m objecting to. If the story is well-crafted, I could talk through with my kids why I don’t agree with whatever political or “social justice” point the author was trying to make. Kids’ books have always been a bit preachy in their own way, it’s just that back in the day the preachiness was aimed at getting kids to behave and be good and now it’s aimed at getting them to tear down Western civilization faster, faster, faster. But the craft aspect to it is TERRIBLE now. Thornton W. Burgess was a preachy conservationist, but my children loved hearing his stories about Reddy Fox and Lightfoot the Deer (you can listen to his stories being read by non-professional readers here). He was a fine children’s literature writer despite his tendency to anthropomorphize deer and his inability to comprehend that slow death by starvation due to overpopulation is not kinder than a quick death by a hunter’s gun.
Several years ago on another blog I wrote a post entitled What is happening to children’s literature? I think we understand now exactly what is happening to it, but I am going to repost that essay here since it seems relevant.
Posted on 03/09/2014
If you have children, you probably already know that March is National Reading Month.
Because we don’t watch television, our family listens to a lot of audio books. We try to choose ones that we all enjoy listening to and which will appeal to a range of ages. A typical evening in our house finds us gathered in the living room, the children drawing or writing and me working on a blog post, while listening to stories on the CD player. Because of this, I have listened to quite a number of both classic and modern children’s stories, and I have concluded that the modern ones are largely unimpressive.
Surely I am not the only parent who has noticed the startling decline in the quality of children’s literature? I first began thinking about this about ten years ago, when my husband and I noticed that many of the picture story books that had the Caldecott Medal Winner sticker on them were so…weird. The books were uninteresting to children and sometimes even frightened them, but I’m sure they were intriguing to the highly-educated, liberal parents of our generation who were raised to see things that are “alternative” as superior. This is the basic ethos of progressivism; anything new and strange, no matter how objectively crappy, is better than what came before. Weird, disturbing children’s books must be better than the simple, charming types of stories that came before, right?
We have continued to notice this trend as our children have gotten older. One year awhile back, we joined a mother-daughter book club at the library. One of the first books that was assigned to us was called The Higher Power of Lucky. We were given a free copy of the book to read, and let me tell you, it was dreadful. It was equal parts morbid and boring. The ten-year-old main character is a girl named Lucky whose mother died from being electrocuted during a storm; her father is unaccounted for and she lives with her father’s first ex-wife in an old trailer in a depressing desert town. She is obsessed with Charles Darwin for some reason and the primary adventure in the story seems to center around Lucky eavesdropping outside AA meetings and worrying that her guardian will abandon her.
Librarians are obsessed with this book. It is everywhere; it is one of their most highly recommended books. Just now we have returned from the library and there were five copies of the audio book on the shelf. Five copies! Audio books are expensive, and it always takes them ages to order the classic ones that I request, but somehow we have money for five copies of this book. No one ever checks them out, but I’m sure it makes the librarians feel very cheerful and progressive to see them on the shelf.
There were several other books that we read for that book club, all equally strange and uninspiring. Modern children’s books usually have main characters who are female, have an intense grrrll power message, and often involve scenes in which girls behave unethically to get what they want. I allowed our girls to listen to a modern story called The Callahan Cousins on audio book last summer about three cousins (all girls) who stay with their grandmother for the summer. The girls – all grrrl-powered up of course – lie, steal, gossip, sneak out, sneak around, and none of this is portrayed in the story as a negative thing.
I can’t imagine what kind of literature is out there for boys now. I rarely see much of anything geared at boys on the shelves, other than stories based on movies, video games, and TV shows. Classic literature isn’t used much anymore, but the new literature is mostly badly written, dull, upsetting, and uninteresting, mostly progressivist propaganda. Virtually every book for girls in the age range of 7 to 12 seems to include some kind of self-conscious gender-bending or gender “stereotype” smashing theme.
I know that many of my readers are parents and would probably like to know of good books for children between the ages of 7 and 15. I will start by recommending the following five books, none of which are Christian books.
All of these stories are available on audio book at our library, but even if you can’t get the audio version, I think your children would enjoy reading these stories:
The Miracles on Maple Hill (1956) by Virginia Sorensen:
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (1939) by Margaret Sydney:
Rascal (1963) by Sterling North:
Larklight (2006) by Philip Reeve:
The Mistmantle Chronicles – start with Urchin of the Riding Stars (2005) by M. I. McAllister:
And our family’s FAVORITE series of audiobooks ever, Hank the Cowdog.
These are perfect for young boys as well as girls. You can buy the books, but I very strongly recommended springing for the extra few dollars to buy the audio books. The author reads them himself and includes songs, and his delivery is just so entertaining. I recommend Hank the Cowdog very highly. We have almost the entire series on audio book now (we’ve been purchasing them slowly over the past decade); also, check your library’s children’s audio book collection because they very well may have some of these or may be willing to purchase them.
Here is a YouTube clip of the author, John Erickson, giving a reading (he’s a much in-demand speaker and lecturer and is a salt-of-the earth Texan Christian sort.)