Featuring colorist Ronda Francis

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Charlotte's Web and Other Books Adults Love--But Do Kids?

I remember being in school and waiting with bated breath to find out the next book we would read.

Would it be Judy Blume?  Roald Dahl?

Nope.  It was E.B.White.  Our teacher told us about this special book, and it was SO special that we would not only read it, but we would go to Radio City Music Hall and see a movie about it.

I could not WAIT.  I was bursting at the seams. 

Charlotte's Web sounded fascinating!  We had never read a book about a spider in school.  We read about bad storms, fishing, sports, and war.  This was new, sounded a bit creepy, and had the potential to be fun.
I cried for a month.

It was not fun.

It was written to appeal to adults.

Beautifully written, the story tells of a clever spider who keeps her new friend Wilbur from the slaughter house.  And of course the spider dies at the end.


I am not saying every kids book needs to be filled with balloons, smiley-faces, and cookies, but they do not have to be like the early Disney movies where every child is an orphan, becomes an orphan, knows someone who becomes an orphan, experiences death, or is alone in the world.

I am also a bit befuddled why children's books are given more attention if they involve diseases, captivity against one's will, war, pain, or anything else that makes it exactly what a kid does not want to read.

I also think many of the so called "children's books" are not written with children in mind, but for adults to read who might be able to get them noticed for an award.

Gimme a break...
We stress that our children grow up too fast, yet we inundate them with endless situations in books that are flat-out depressing and harsh.

The librarian in my town recently told me that kids over five or six would think a book about a girl who believes in the Easter bunny is silly because they all know by this age that it is a fairy tale and they would not be interested.

Is this true?

If it is I feel a bit sad.

Maurice Sendack managed to take us to a dark and scary place filled with monsters, sharp pointy teeth, and moms that just don't understand in the book Where the Wild Things Are.  No one died or came close to dying.  The hero was not an orphan, and we did not weep at any point in the book.  Roald Dahl entranced us with his beautiful tale of a candy-filled world of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.  He even had a family facing hard times, stress, and aging, but the reader is never engulfed in a misty fog of gloom that so many kid's book leave us wrapped in.
There is a wild one is us all.

Childhood is a time of wonder, when a dark summer evening chasing lightning bugs can transport a child to a fairy tale world of an enchanted forest and magic. 

Kids DO grow up so fast--I think we need more books that make kids smile and give them a sense of hope.

They will learn all about the dark stuff soon enough.


  1. I think the ones that tend to resonate and carry on are the very ones that are meant to appeal to both, and sometimes that means including those darker themes.

    By the way, Secret Garden also does include orphans, spooky old houses, and feeling alone in the world, but ultimately it's a beautiful book.

    1. Several people told me about The Secret Garden--I want to see what that book is about.
      My son read books in school that completely turned him off to reading...he used to LOVE books. The Giver, Charlotte's Web, Diary of a Young Girl, and several others made him feel the books that society considered 'worthy' were not for him.