Friday, November 16, 2012


"I've never quite figured out what I get from children's literature that I don't get from adult literature, but there's something." -Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project
I love books. Everything about them. I will read anything. If I get caught somewhere, say at the doctor's office, with no book or magazine in my bag, I will read pamphlets about heart disease or old issues of Highlights magazine. It might be a bit obsessive. But there are worse habits.
And while I love books written for adults, I have a great love of reading children's and young adult literature. There is something there that is lacking in many adult books. Perhaps it's the fact that many children's books have the theme of good vs. evil, and the good will prevail, even in the darkest of stories. So many adult books seem to be focused on the flaws of the characters, showing us how evil does win and doesn't change and there is no hope, ever.  Children's literature shows the characters' flaws, but shows us how they come to terms with those flaws and what they must do to prevail despite of them.
I mean, is there a better character then Anne Shirley Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series? (The answer is no.) This is a girl who inspires those around her to be better, who makes mistakes but readily admits to them and tries to fix them, who loves gossip but never speaks ill of anyone, who does her best to lead a good life and raises children willing to go out and try to make the world better. Can you think of any character in an adult book that that can be said about?
The Hunger Games trilogy might be the best thing out there written about PTSD and the effects of war. The heroine, Katniss, is flawed, and the books are insanely violent, but in the end, good prevails. It has similar themes to The Giver, another children's book that simply tells a story of what trying to achieve a "perfect" society can do to the real people living in it. The Harry Potter books also showcase a war against evil, and taking a stand for your beliefs. The characters are complex; those that seem completely perfect have faults, and those that seem to be horrible bad have some good in them. Even the most evil of them is given a human side in his background story. And Number the Stars (written by the same author as The Giver), is a fictional account of a true good vs evil story, where a young Danish girl and her family risk their lives to help their Jewish neighbors escape the Nazi round up of Copenhagen.
The Little House books are true American stories. Not just the stories of pioneers, but the simple life lessons in them: honesty, hard work, listening to your parents, not complaining or giving up when things go wrong. Farmer Boy especially provides such a good male role model, which many children's books seem to be lacking.
"Where is Papa going with that ax?" might hands down be the best opening line of a book, ever. And the story of Charlotte's Web is such a beautiful portrait of friendship, it is near perfection.
And yes, even the Twilight books. Which, I know. They are not the most profound books out there. But it's such fun. This was a series I got caught up in, and couldn't wait to see how it all ended. People complain about how ridiculous they are how, how backwards for woman. But a girl choosing what she wants, at any age, and knowing that it's what's right for her? Well, there's nothing backwards about that, no matter what those choices are. And that's what the character Bella does. She knows what she wants and goes after it in every one of the books.
There are so many more, with such wonderful stories. So read adult books, of course. But remember the children's books. They have so much to offer.

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