Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I Love These Kids

Daddy's Law deals with the chore of getting kids to read what's good for them. I know I should be totally supportive of that, but... (Thanks to Blog of a B.S.)

Today's Lizard Motel Entry

Today, children, we will discuss Feinberg's feelings about magic. She feels that it is missing from children's realistic and problem novels. She's not talking about fantasy novels here. She believes that children turn to magic or play, even more so when they are stressed and traumatized, say, in a problem novel. "For all children, except in cases of extreme pathology, there is to a greater or lesser degree a corresponding magical, imaginative counterpart to experience...

"And it is precisely this dimension to childhood experience that is absent from many realistic novels and virtually all problem novels. No magic, manifest or latent, vibrates within them."
pgs. 42-43

I think Feinberg is romanticizing childhood a bit here. Or a lot. She talks about these books lacking authenticity and not being childlike. I think she's close to something with that, but not because a child's romanticized imagination is missing. I don't think there's something missing in these books that should be there; I think there's something in them that shouldn't be--interests that are primarily adult in nature.

The desire to dwell on problems and traumas is, to make an overgeneralization I'm sure, an adult interest, not a child's. Children just aren't aware of a lot that's going on around them, unless it happens to have to do directly with them. They start out life self-centered for good reason--they can't care for themselves and have to make a lot of noise about their needs in order to get adults to take care of them. Interest in the greater world and the problems of others comes slowly. I'm not saying kids are selfish and insensitive; they just haven't developed those traits in a generalized sort of way as highly as they will later. When they're adults.

Traditionally, kids have been interested in mystery stories (they involve solving a problem and bringing the universe back into order) and science fiction and fantasy (where all kinds of dangerous things can happen in a world remote from their own). There are very logical reasons for kids to like these kinds of stories. They're safe.

I'm not saying that these are the only kinds of books that should be out there for kids, and we'll get to why in another posting. (Well, besides the reason that we have freedom of speech and the press in this country, of course.) I'm just saying that I often find kid problem books forced and contrived not because of a lack of anything but because adults have imposed their own interests upon them.


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