Monday, 25 January 2010

Sissy Is Not a Name

Author and Illustrator James Mayhew recently posted a frustrating story about a ridiculous, but nonetheless harmful, review of one of his picture books. It reminded me that there are some people who seem to believe that all books for children should be educational in some way, even to the point of prioritising facts over fiction. Such literal-minded people probably aren't the best judges of story books.

James was unfortunate because the whole cavemen and dinosaurs thing is a particular bugbear for some. But why wasn't the fact that the dinosaur in question can talk not a clue that the reviewer wasn't dealing with a palaeontology textbook?

I wrote a series of picture books about a tiger who mixes with hippos and wildebeest, and my geo-zoological error is still pointed out to me. The argument seems to go like this: children soak up information like sponges so adults have a responsibility to make sure they are getting true facts. Therefore dinosaurs don't chat to cavemen, tigers don't befriend wildebeest, and Kenneth Graham is a dangerous subversive who has confused generations with his disregard for riverside facts. And as for that J. M. Barrie...

Surely it's clear that once children have reached the age when facts are important they have already discovered for themselves what fiction is. In the meantime, why deny them the tooth-fairy or the chance to daydream?


  1. Aaaggghhhhhhh! Liberal sprinkling of cat hair - sorry! Adults like this have forgotten what it is like to be a child. They should not be allowed anywhere near a child! Reminds me of a child I saw in the shopping centre one day. He was dressed up as Superman and told an adult "I'm Superman". "No you're not. You're a boy." The child looked at him completely bewildered and then said, "I am too Superman. Can't you see?" No, obviously that particular adult could not.

  2. Thank goodness I'm not a child anymore, it must be a real drag these days!

    There's a clue into the nonsense of it all in the fact that an adult was reviewing the book....can't children communicate?

  3. So many children aren't allowed to have childhoods anymore. These reviewers are killjoys.

    Kids need fantasy or they'll lose their creativity, never mind the pleasure of play.

    Keep writing fun stuff for them!

  4. That's crazy. They're picture books for heaven sake. They're meant to provide smiles and snuggle time every night. If I want my kids to lean about dinosaurs I'll get a nonfiction book. I read my kids lots of nonsensical things.

  5. Thanks for the comments. Cat, I like to think that budding superman used his heat-ray vision on Mr Kiljoy.

    Childhood is so brief, and so easily ruined. Let them have their moment in Neverland.

    Rachel, the littlest ones don't have much voice on the internet, but there are reviews of a kind to be found about the place. Children's publishing is perhaps unique in that the readers themselves have no part in the creation or production of its output. This is why school visits are so important to people like me.

    Thanks, Terry, I intend to:)

    Natalie, I'm glad to hear it. Most of life is being forced to be sensicle:(

  6. Thomas, I just wanted to tell you again, how much I enjoy your blog. You always say the things I feel so eloquently.... The best I can muster about this sort of stuff is a hiss of steam expelled via the ears!

  7. Cassia, you express my feelings perfectly! I'm also puzzled as to why you get all the 'must be accurate and factual' stuff on the one hand, and then there is Sponge Bob Square Pants...

  8. Songe Bob - Ha! Penny, you crack me up! Hmn, sorry...I think all publishing houses should have a panel of kids to read stuff!


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