After being immersed in children’s literature for some time - as a teacher, a mother and a grandmother - of late I have obviously not kept up with modern trends in kids’ books..
Although I have a four-year-old granddaughter living in U.K. to whom I send books on a semi-regular basis, these are usually books well known to me from my years as the aforesaid mother, grandmother and primary school teacher.
But apparently, I have ‘dropped the ball’ (as they say) and have been left behind as far as what’s trending.
I must admit I was a little surprised to read a glowing review of a new children's book by a previously (to me) unknown author, Zoe Foster Blake.
The book’s title is “Fart and Burp are Superstinkers”. A posted comment was, “What could be better than a Fart with a heart? A Super Fart of course!”
So, it must be a happy and positive story.
Please do not, for one minute, think I am disparaging Ms Foster Blake’s expertise as a storyteller. From what I have (now) read I believe she is a wonderful and very popular author of children’s books. I am perhaps the only one who missed out on reading her previous book (“No One Likes a Fart”).
On a brief search of other kids’ books containing (previously thought) “rude” titles, it was easy to find such titles as “Bumageddon”, by Andy Griffiths, who also wrote “Zombie Bums From Uranus” and “The Day My Bum Went Psycho”.
It somehow brought back memories of my teaching days in the 1990s, when a parent complained to me about a small reading book I had sent home with her son, that depicted a father wearing an apron and washing the dishes. This overly-religious mother felt that this little book was inappropriate in its portrayal of a ‘man-of-the-house’ doing household chores – and wearing an apron. She requested that, in the future, I lend her son only books published before 1980.
Yes, that’s an extreme example of reaction to children’s literature. But I am now wondering if my reaction to the current fart and bum stories is similar to the 1990 objection to seeing a dad in an apron. I hope not!
Way back, in the 1950s, kids delighted in reading Enid Blyton’s chapter books, including ‘The Secret Seven’, ‘The Adventurous Four’ and later, ‘The Famous Five’ series.
Those books ensured that most kids were happy readers for years. No television in those days, of course.
There were other books and series and perhaps Enid Blyton appealed more to the girls than to the boys, but they were the main literature of the day.
Perhaps if there was a bum or fart reference, the boys would have read more?
Would that have been shocking?
But get this:
As well as much loved and much read books, in the 1950s there was an absolute favourite poem for eight-year-olds in the Victorian Grade Three Reader, called ‘Little Boy Blue’* a poem , written way back in 1888 by Eugene Field about the death of a child.
Can you imagine that?
It seems amazing – and perhaps a little weird that this literature was presented to children. Perhaps more amazing is how much the kids loved it.
Would there be complaints in 2021 about allowing small children to read a poem that alluded to a child dying? I think there might have been.
What a huge difference in so many ways has come about in kids’ reading matter.
And now, I am wondering about that huge reading topic gap in the decades since kids enjoyed reading a sad poem about a dying child or fantastic (and most improbable) Enid Blyton adventures experienced by groups of children, towards book topics that would have been unimaginable in the 1950s.
Of course, in the middle of this, we have had the popular Harry Potter series and plenty of other books that have hopefully encouraged children to read.
I know that in times of modern smart televisions, smart phones, and computer games everything has changed, it must be a challenge to have kids read a book.
If it must be Harry Potter type fantasy or even books about bums, farts and burps, then the means possibly justifies the end.
Is that so?
But, whatever will be next?
*Little Boy Blue
The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket molds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.
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I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.