Thread: Child's book
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As a writer, I can tell you that clear and concise writing like in "the HObbit" is a gift.
Swampy that doesn't mean it isn't a child's story. There are tons of gifted children's writers that create wonderfully clear and concise stories for kids because that is exactly what children can grab onto...it isn't any less real writing anymore than babyfood isn't real people food. It's just more palatable and easy to digest. Simple stories are necessary for kids to learn not only how to read but to keep their attention and love the idea of literacy...you wouldn't get very far with kids and reading if you tried to turn them on to Kafka. That's where Dr. Seuss comes in. He tells a story in a way that grabs a kid's attention, and leaves them wanting to discover what the fuss is all about with huge volumes that don't have pictures!
I would add here that our very own Remmit got POTW this week for writing a brilliantly simple post. And we don't appreciate that?
The gift of children's literature is telling a meaningful story (however you define it) in a brilliantly simple way.
For example, The Lumox is a Dr Seuss story...it is the one, I hope, lest I be a big non source checking dork...that is about the guy chopping all the trees to make his factory bigger. A kiddie book and no one would argue that. But it's brilliant nonetheless. HUGE postBody there. Lifelong postBody I would hope.
The Bible is full of parables and other simple tales. Daniel. Noah. Shadrack Mischak and Abednigo. Loaves and two fishes. Whether you embrace the theology or not, they are simple yet meaningful stories.
Shel Silverstein is one of the most brilliant postAuthorIDs I could possibly imagine and he is considered a children's writer. The Giving Tree??? For Godsake that is inspired!
To be in such company as any of these people would not personally offend me. I don't know why it would be so insulting to anyone to be considered a children's postAuthorID...or to have written a children's story. If I'm not mistaken, the classification process is not even focussed on content of material. (There are kids stories about very grown up issues..."My Two Daddies"?) To Kill A Mockingbird was considered young adult fiction? Books are classified as a result of analyzing the vocabulary and which age group or grade level (within kids classifications) is most likely to be able to begin understanding it.
I suppose the difference between a good writer and a great writer is not being perfectly suitable to any one group or age, but to be able to write simply enough for children and simultaneously deep enough for adults to want to treasure a story long after they are able to read it.
I noticed the difference between the Hobbit and LOTR. I don't know if I thought this first and then read it, but Tolkien himself said it was a bedtime story for his children...and I remember thinking, "Yeah this is a tale you would tell around a campfire!" That is a distinctly different vibe from what I got reading LOTR which went down more like a cross between a novel and a history book and was much more difficult to follow. The Sil and Unfinished Tales, not that I know personally, because I haven't read them...are support and reference materials that lay the groundwork for both TH and LOTR so in that sense they would be "other".
But why would any of this get anyone's bloomers in a knot?
First, I didn't mean to sound like I was stealing any thunder here, I heard a lot of the same thoughts as mine and I thunk them up all by myself.
My fav part of WOW is when Toad first gets run over by the motorcar, then all he can say is "poop poop". Talk about your ROFL, I was coming absolutely unglued when I came up on that! WHICH is exactly the same delight I experienced when I read Bilbo's reaction (in TH) to finding out what all the adventure entailed...the whole "whistling like a teapot" thing, I was CRYING real tears and could not pull it together for a good five minutes!
Great childrens literature often goes on to inspire adults to do other creative and decidedly more grown up things. I guess a few things that come to mind, in addition to The Hobbit giving birth to LOTR...is how the HP books are getting more and more advanced as we go along. No one originally had any doubt that HP1 was a kid's story but I think the line for me was 1-2-3 kids and 4-5 grownups. Musicians have been inspired by kid's literature too. How many scores to childrens movies are complicated symphonic masterpieces? The music from TKAM was absolutely haunting, scary and delightfully innocent at the same time. Van Morrison wrote a song called "Wind in the Willows" too.
The classification system of books really has no bearing on who is reading it or how good it is. It has more to do with where to put the book in a library or bookstore so you can get the youngest audience possible...it's probably economics.
I think that's it. But you know I'll be back if I forgot anything.
The Lumox is a Dr Seuss story...
Just to clarify, I think this book was called The Lorax in other countries (or at least in Australia). It is definately one of my favourites.
The Lumox is a Dr Seuss story...
And the Lumox when spelled with two M's is colloquial for a clumsy or stupid person; a dunderhead. But don't feel like one MIM, because I couldn't remember the actual title either, even though I recognized the story from your description; besides, you may be long winded, but you are anything, but a lummox.
"MIM is a ________ chowder head!"
Is there an interesting word for lazy? As in:
"MIM is a ________ chowder head!"
MIM is a delightful chowder head! I don't think that would be detrimental to anyone's self-esteem.
Now, after this little discussion, do we feel "nice" like the hobbit, Perigrin Took using the last word of definition 7a? I know I do.
[Edited on 14/8/2003 by Grondmaster]
As for Harry Potter, I haven't read "The Order of Phoenix", but the 4th book was clearly not for little kids! There are some parts that freaked me out! Imagine what that would do to a not-yet-10-year-old child! Other than that, I really liked the book; it's better than the first three ones, IMO! I guess little Harry is growing up, right?
If I was to make a comparison (though it's hardly possible!), I would say TH is on the same level with HP4.
I know that our professor said it was a child's book, but I am wondering if he lived now and say worked with children and there was not a personal war he had been involved in , I wonder then how he would classify The Hobbit. Having worked with battered, abused and at risk children, having been an au pair, and registered nanny and having written for children I do not think that the Hobbit is truly a 'child's book, unless it is kept in the part of the school library that is for older children, and in my province even early teens to say fourteen or fifteen are considered children.
Chidren ,no matter what we adults like to tell ourselves, and depending on the family dynamic, are often not able , truly, to separate fiction and faerie talefrom reality. That is why many early teen girls for instance end up pregnant and emotionally wounded for years or life, because they truly believe the faerie stories about the prince that is good, kind, understanding and will take her away from all that hurts her. That is why the boy that might have had a harsh birth or autistic or emotionally stunted from trauma might read say Peter Pan and think it is a good thing to go to never land where there are no rules and you can fight and stab and do all sorts of wondrous fun things and as long as Peter is there(gang leader) nothing and no one can harm you and you are not bad, well just lost. In other generations there were stern rules or no rules and no one thought about what is really in the heart and psyche of a child, how easily they are harmed or wounded. By peer pressure or other measures a child somehow fit in. And then we wondered why down the road Johnny or Suzie murdered someone or committed suicide or became alcholic(quietly, no one knew). Now the Hobbit could have been read to a child by mummy or daddy, the terrifying bits like the ponies being eaten left out, children care deeply about them and some children I found cried for months over a story, though mostly alone and hiding their feelings which then came forth as an eating disorder or social problem. I worked with so many children from every sort of background including loving ones. So I suggest it is a child's book IF an adult reads it with them and skillfully avoids the bits that hurt and wound and terrify. We read The Hobbit a while back with our family, our little one being seven. She has anxiety disorder so we carefully read 'around the terrifying bits with still the flavour being there. She understood everything and our doing it this way did not take away her sense of security. 'Because in any tale a child must see that the hero or heroine has hope, something or someone who will come to their aid. Real life can be depressing and scarey and books should never add to that , but be a great adventure where help always comes. Like in the Narnia movies. You just know, well Lucy did, that Aslan will come. He will truly come. I think our professor , having seen all his pals save on or two killed in the war, he might have thought in this life it is just really rather hopeless.
I'm afraid I'm going to disagree with you here!
I honestly believe that LotR fits as easily in the children's section, the Sci Fi section, the young adults and the adults section. I do feel quite strongly about letting children explore and discover books on their own and allowing them the freedom to make choices about what they will and wont read, what is too scary and what isn't. Anything you discover and decide for yourself is worth 100x what someone else hands you - LotR should be there on the shelf for any child who wants to pick it up and make that decision. Even if that decision is to put it down straight away!
I think children know the difference between books and reality. And in the cases you've mentioned I really do think it's reality that causes the hurt and confusion in life, not the books. Books don't cause fear and violence - real life does that.
People (including children!) reflect themselves in what they read - if they seek violence and anger at what happens or goes wrong, then that's what they will find. If they feel empathy towards the characters or find their heart beats faster at adventures or sharing joy in triumph then that's emotion from them. If they didn't have it in them then they wouldn't find it in what they read, they'd put the book down, find it boring or not catching their attention. Or find something else entirely in it.
I read LotR when I was 9 - with the encouragement of my school librarian who let me take TT home with me over the summer holidays. I found the world in it beautiful, and awe inspiring and spent the summer running around in the bush in this world with my cousins and younger brother pretending we were elves or trying to climb to the tops of hills and scaring each other that we had heard goblins. I didn't find anywhere near as much magic in the books when I reread them as an adult. But I do still find this world amazing and joyful and I think discovering LotR when I was that age helped with that.
On page 297 of Tolkien's The Letters.. he tells Mr. Allen, of Allen and Unwin, that he had published The Hobbit quickly and without due consideration ecause he said he was still influenced by the convention that a faerie story was quite naturally directed to children. Then he goes on to say that he had no desire to address children as it had nothing to do with the actual story itself or as he says 'the urge to write it"
On page 311 after expressing his loathing of The Pied Piper Tolkien tells Jane Neave, that may be his maiden aunt who had a degree, that ,he explains that to his experience children have a lack of experience in which to actually talk about their perceptions. He said they are outwardly "aquiescent' in an outward way of the 'food' given to them by we adults, and will say how much they really enjoyed what was given them. Then he says after that they may mentally or for real throw what given them over the wall and he tells a funny story of how his own children did that very same thing , tossing their jam sandwhiches over the garden wall through the entire summer one year. And he noted that he would listen himself when very young to Hans Christian Andersen , even one time appearing as if he were in a rapture , but the reality was he dislike him with a passion and the clarity of that stayed with him throughout all his years.
That is the point I make, while working with little children who liked to read or be read to, even the much older children I found it worth while to find ways to talk to them privately, and if i happened to gain their trust was usually surprised to find out what seemed 'the norm' really disturbed them and they only 'pretended' to like the material, especially more alarming or 'adventurous' material to be the same as others in their peer groups. In fact I have found that to be quite true talking to adults that now no longer could care less what others think, now they have matured. So, for that reason I hesitate to call The Hobbit a child's story in the face of modern thinking on the problems children face emotionally with our single parent world, or instant communications or the nightly ghastly news. But it is only my opinion .
What really gets my Gourd is how the PC Crowd have taken Kids' childhoods away from them, and this book is one of the (albeit distant) victims OF that crusade to wrap Kids up in cotton wool. I'm mid forties, and grew up with Grimm's Fairytales, Anthology of Verse, Jabberwocky and Lewis Carroll, CS Lewis and Manning-Saunders (think Traditional Tales of Goblins, witches and Giants), some of which have some quite 'Scary' or disturbing plots, even for those distant days and which todays kids wouldn't be exposed to for a big pig nowadays for fear of traumatising them ! As a kid, reading through the Library 100 yards from my house, with my school friends, they were meat and drink to us, Of which, the Hobbit was a VERY mild example to say the least, the 'Scariest' thing being Smaug ! And he didn't really do anything terribly scary bar roar a coupla times and eat a few ponies. Now the Spiders...
I think its about time kids were allowed to read these stories and enjoy them. Because if not, reading will die out and kids will rely on Films and TV ONLY for their Ideas of 'Fantasy', and NOT those excellent Images we all get inside our heads when we read a book.
Thanks for reading, 'rant' (?) over. I LOVE Books !
Those who have seen the various making of specials on the Extended DVD's will be familiar with the JRRT section which features various interviews with Tolkien specialist as well as family members.
The finished manuscript of The Hobbit was reviewed by the child of one of the owners of Allen & Unwin (publishing house). From memory the child was around 7 and gave a positive review in that it would be suitable for children from 4 to 8! Yes 4 to 8, hard to believe, however it shows how modern children's reading abilities have diminished. I believe it is most certainly meant for children and as with quality modern day animation, adults get a lot out of them as well.
Isnt it a shame that kids these day have to have everything laid out or given, rather than having to use their imagination as in days gone by. Kids back then would have had very little idea of what to base the various fabulous visions conjured by JRRT on. These days we are flooded with imagery of the fantasy genre and have solid visuals to base most things on as we have almost certainly already scene them on TV or film.....
I frankly don't think you should call the style of the Hobbit "Childlike." LOTR is extremely hard to get through even for most adults. As a writer, I can tell you that clear and concise writing like in "the HObbit" is a gift. Tolkien lost many readers when he graduated to a more difficult style of writing. Just like Sam, the simple gardener, was invaluable to the quest of the ring, simplicity is often invaluable to writing. I still enjoy the HObbit, which is not writen in the vein of "Harry Potter" which is specifically targeted to children. Tolkien never intended it to be a "childrens book".
The first post in this thread says it all for me. Indeed, I think it the more perfect piece of writing when compared to LotR overall. A story for ALL the family, but only those who love a great imaginative story.
Too true Gamalial, and even more true of the Silmarillion.
Just so, Brego!
well, first of all, I´m sorry for my bad English writing
I'm a harry potter´s fan and I recently started to read tolkien´s books.
I must tell that I can only partly agree with you.
I read the hobbit and I have to say that I enjoyed very much the story. I don't think, as you, that the hobbit is for children. despite the very simple and clear tolkien´s language, that allows a very quick reading, the story tells us a very beautiful message, that not all kids are able to understand such values that inspires us to fight the obstacles in our paths, show us the several ways we can live our life and which we can control.
the part in which I disagree with you is when you consider that harry potter is for children. As tolkien, j.k.rowling uses a very simple and clear language, that allows us to comprehend the magic and the beautiful story. at the same time, the characters are very rich in terms of personality and we can testify their evolution as human beings as well. they also transmit to the reader very important values,such as the importance of friendship to help us to face the life´s obstacles, the courage we must have, the importance of family and love in our life as well. at the same time, the women´s role in the story shows us that we ( women ) are strong and we are able to do anything as good as a man can do. The story teaches us to be strong and fight against the every days ´ prejudice.
as a conclusion, harry potter is a very amazing story rich in important values, that are hidden behind the all potions and spells which are almost impossible for children to comprehend all of them.
bye and greetings from Portugal