I was asked to write not only about all those bad children’s books, but also to provide some good examples. What’s the point of criticizing all the books your children want to read, if there is no alternative? Sure, I’d still say that you can read the problematic books anyway, but point out the problems to your kid, but it is better of course to just have a good book that follows your own ideology. So, that is what I’m doing today. Be aware, there are many more examples, but in my recent attempt to write shorter articles (just in case that’s a reason people are turned off from reading them), I’ll just focus on some and come back to all of this again in the future.
So, it’s time for some children’s books again. Last time I found gender roles, diversity and the lack thereof, animal misrepresentation and much more. Part of my examples today I discovered in a book store in Mannheim and couldn’t help but take some pictures. Let’s take a look!
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David Levithan’s Every Day has a central idea that is so simple and brilliant, that it’s hard to believe no one else has written that book already. It’s the story of A, who wakes up in a new body every day, for one day, since his (or her, there’s no definite gender) birth. He doesn’t get involved too much and just follows along the person’s normal routine until he jumps into the next person. That alone would make an interesting book. He’s sixteen when we meet him and just reading about him observing the people whose lives he joins is interesting enough. But then he falls in love for the first time, with a girl called Rhiannon and suddenly he has to live actively if he wants to enjoy this love. This is where the book becomes really interesting. It’s a really good book, well-written and with one of the best endings I could imagine because until the very end, it’s hard to see it coming. It plays with our expectations and I really enjoyed that. I try to keep it short because I do not want to spoil the book in any way, as I think it’s really worth reading.
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My daughter (almost 3) loves reading books. I (almost 34) love reading books. There might be a connection. But because I’m me, I can’t help but look closer at the books she reads. Children’s books are full of ideas what kids are supposed to think and they are also full of stereotypes. If you want to read books with your kids and care about what they take away from it, you have to look very close and you have to think what you tell them or if some books need extra explanation. I’ve collected some examples, negative and positive ones, mainly from non-fiction books and since my daughter never gets tired of getting new books from the library, this will probably not the last time I’m doing this (and I’m sorry for some of the bad quality of the photos, I’m not a professional book page photographer). The title of this series refers again to J. Zornado’s incredible and mind-changing book Inventing the Child, in which he takes a look at children’s literature and shows the horrible things we read to our kids for decades.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is a tricky novel. It seems almost innocent in describing the lives of its three main characters which live an uneventful life in a boarding school and how they grow up. But beneath that unexciting surface lurks a dark story about rearing children in ignorance, teaching them to pretend and making them believe in authority at all times. Yes, the book also deals with cloning and what makes us human, but this has been dealt with in enough other books and movies. What fascinates me about that book is the way it portrays education and society but also the way it incorporates the three things I tell my students too often about: ignorance, authority and pretense. I just finished reading the book in my main class and was happy to see it was received (mostly) well, because I wasn’t sure students would find it appealing. But now I know that I would read it again and while working on it, I was surprised how much the novel has to offer and how thought-provoking it is. It has a lot of aspects to discuss and I want to try to get at most of what I deem important, which will still be a lot. For structure’s sake, I will follow the three-part division of the book. Continue reading Book Report: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005)