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?