Author Topic: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?  (Read 1915 times)

Sin Agog

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It seems like almost every childrens book out there has some lovely message about acceptance, embracing diversity, not getting knocked up by Jonathan, the baker's son, in the employee car park at the back of Wimpy's.  Even entertaining deviants like Roald Dahl would sprinkle in pro-vegetarian messages and the like into his books.  It's heartwarming when you're reading something like The Velveteen Rabbit to your child or younger relative and you come to that passage about loving that ragged, frayed, disease-ridden pile of cloth until it becomes real.  But then it generally means bog all in the long run, doesn't it?  The generation that voted for Trump and turned to UKIP grew up with a cavalcade of entertainment from the side of the angels, like Mr. Rogers, Oliver Postgate, The Last Unicorn etc. and they still turned out the way they did.  What do parents think about all of this, and have you ever encountered any children's books that made you go, 'Hang about, I don't agree with that.'

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2018, 02:54:44 PM »
What do parents think about all of this, and have you ever encountered any children's books that made you go, 'Hang about, I don't agree with that.'

Yes, quite a lot. All those revolting farmyard books for kids, pushing the lie of happy animals and caring farmers on cozy farmsteads.

Also, that "Dear Zoo" book, the perfect legitimisation of the concept of animals as toys and utterly expendable at the whim of a child.

Lemming

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2018, 03:16:38 PM »
The Apple by Dick Bruna formed the basis of my morality and has never failed me since.

Yes, quite a lot. All those revolting farmyard books for kids, pushing the lie of happy animals and caring farmers on cozy farmsteads.

Totally agreed with this. When my niece was a baby, she had a picture book that had a picture of a smiling pig with some caption like "the pig gives us meat", and other pages with "the cow gives us cheese" and such. I know the book is for infants, but "the pig gives us meat" is such a bizarre euphemism for "we shoot the pig through the brain and rip hunks of its flesh out to get meat".

Jerzy Bondov

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2018, 03:55:16 PM »
Janet and Allan Ahlberg's 'Peepo' is firmly set in the incorrectly remembered Britain of the right's wettest dreams. I won't have it in the house.

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2018, 04:05:43 PM »
Most of these stories seem to focus on personal qualities, 'be good in your day to day life etc.'. The distrust of the corrupt that Dahl fosters , I believe, leads to a distrust of the processes of power completely. Turn away from politics and be good to others is a message I imagine many take from the books they read as children.


Pingers

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2018, 06:47:30 PM »
Fucking Thomas the Tank Engine is all about knowing your place and not getting ideas above your station (oi oi!). Dreadful books, after realising this we hid them then burned got rid of them.

Petey Pate

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2018, 04:11:50 PM »
There's an Ursula K. Le Guin interview where she says that the root cause of many societal problems is that girls read books for both girls and boys but usually boys only read books for boys.

Fucking Thomas the Tank Engine is all about knowing your place and not getting ideas above your station (oi oi!). Dreadful books, after realising this we hid them then burned got rid of them.

Reverend Awdry was clearly an authoritarian who wanted to instill the fear of God in children. There's even a Thomas story with a socialist bus who wants to 'free the roads from the railway tyranny' who ends up turned into being a hen house for his disobedience.

Twed

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2018, 06:37:43 PM »

Phoenix Lazarus

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2018, 06:59:50 PM »
Even entertaining deviants like Roald Dahl would sprinkle in pro-vegetarian messages and the like into his books.  It's heartwarming when you're reading something like The Velveteen Rabbit to your child or younger relative and you come to that passage about loving that ragged, frayed, disease-ridden pile of cloth until it becomes real.  '

Dahl's morality is a bit odd.  For instance, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, harmless things like enjoying chewing gum and television seem to be condemned equally with deserving targets like obnoxiously demanding behaviour and overeating and obesity.

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2018, 07:06:31 PM »
There's an Ursula K. Le Guin interview where she says that the root cause of many societal problems is that girls read books for both girls and boys but usually boys only read books for boys.

Reverend Awdry was clearly an authoritarian who wanted to instill the fear of God in children. There's even a Thomas story with a socialist bus who wants to 'free the roads from the railway tyranny' who ends up turned into being a hen house for his disobedience.

It's in the TV series rather than the books, but there's one infamous story where a disobedient train is bricked up in a tunnel by the tyrannical Fat Controller. Like Edgar Allen Poe for kiddies.

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2018, 10:41:17 PM »
It's in the TV series rather than the books, but there's one infamous story where a disobedient train is bricked up in a tunnel by the tyrannical Fat Controller. Like Edgar Allen Poe for kiddies.
Here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO6qIM2WO6k

Small Man Big Horse

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2018, 01:17:37 AM »
The Doomlord comic strip in Eagle that I read when I was 8 suggested that humanity was awful and deserved to be wiped from the planet, and I believe that to this day.

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2018, 01:24:41 AM »
To Kill a Mockingbird has stopped racism.

The problem with child lit is once it becomes co-opted by adults/the man/establishment it loses it's effect. Hence if there was a video game with a good message it would solve the world's problems.

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2018, 03:00:00 AM »
The 80s phenomenon of Dahl as the most popular kid's author and figurehead for children's literature does seem strange in retrospect. If, prior to his success, parents had been asked what they'd like their children to be reading, I bet no-one would have said that what kids really need is the crazed sadism of George's Marvellous Medicine or The Twits. The period of Dahl's fame is sandwiched between phases where the most popular children's authors were doing much more earnest, morally straightforward stuff, Enid Blyton before and JK Rowling after. As a kid in the 80s I remember Dahl being heavily promoted, he was almost certainly the first author I was aware of. And I remember people talking very negatively about Enid Blyton as exactly what was wrong with children's books in the past, in a (Victorian/sentimental/twee/moralising)= bad.


So I think an answer to the thread title'question might be found if we compare different generations of people with an eye on what children's books were in vogue when they were kids. I bet that the differences in attitudes between Generation X and Millienials has, in a small way, something to do with the former being the anarcho-sadist Dahl cohort, and the latter being part of the Harry Potter cohort.


Phoenix Lazarus

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2018, 06:58:40 AM »
The Doomlord comic strip in Eagle that I read when I was 8 suggested that humanity was awful and deserved to be wiped from the planet, and I believe that to this day.

That was a bizarre one.  He started out as would-be world conqueror and ended up as ecological campaigner.

Pingers

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2018, 10:07:40 AM »
Dahl's morality is a bit odd.  For instance, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, harmless things like enjoying chewing gum and television seem to be condemned equally with deserving targets like obnoxiously demanding behaviour and overeating and obesity.

He wrote The Twits after finding a note in one of his old notebooks that read "Do something against beards". His morality was definitely idiosyncratic

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2018, 11:36:23 AM »
Dahl's morality is a bit odd.  For instance, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, harmless things like enjoying chewing gum and television seem to be condemned equally with deserving targets like obnoxiously demanding behaviour and overeating and obesity.

My mum once confronted him in the '70s on something or other, maybe some perceived sexism or something about the Oompa-Loompas.  Instead of fighting back, he became really sad and said, "I...couldn't have known."

I'm just glad she hadn't heard of Switch Bitch at that point.

Small Man Big Horse

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2018, 01:32:52 PM »
That was a bizarre one.  He started out as would-be world conqueror and ended up as ecological campaigner.

True, though the first evil Doomlord was killed off and it was only his replacement, Vek, who saw the good in humanity. Though even he turned evil again towards the series finale, I'd moved over to 2000AD by that point but reading about it on wikipedia it seems like the series went really off the rails.

Phoenix Lazarus

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2018, 07:48:56 PM »
True, though the first evil Doomlord was killed off and it was only his replacement, Vek, who saw the good in humanity. Though even he turned evil again towards the series finale, I'd moved over to 2000AD by that point but reading about it on wikipedia it seems like the series went really off the rails.

I read Eagle from the first issue, in early 1982, until autumn 1984.  In that time there were about four separate Doomlord series.  I remember they did a feel-good Christmas story for 1983, which was weird.

purlieu

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2018, 03:14:22 PM »
It's in the TV series rather than the books, but there's one infamous story where a disobedient train is bricked up in a tunnel by the tyrannical Fat Controller. Like Edgar Allen Poe for kiddies.
It's in the books too. 'The Sad Story of Henry', from the very first Railway Series book, Three Railway Engines.

non capisco

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2018, 11:04:38 PM »
I'd faintly remembered that story but assumed they let Henry out in the end after he'd gone "Sorry for being a vain cunt I suppose, or whatever the moral is meant to be here". But, no! It ends with Ringo Starr going "And they ber-luddy well left him in there to ber-luddy ROT, which I agree with and you should too." And the other wanker trains are all speeding past going "ahahaha!". Horrible.

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #21 on: November 01, 2018, 06:28:13 AM »
It's not books that make the yoof right wing racists, it's the over prescription of amphetamine and unrestricted access to 4chan and reddit

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #22 on: November 01, 2018, 07:40:27 AM »
The Polar Express is written from the point of a view of an adult recounting his trip to the North Pole and how all the people around him subsequently lost the ability to hear the ringing of the bell from Santa's sleigh. It's basically the story of a grown man who still believes in Father Christmas, which is deeply, deeply sad. Also, I wonder if the frequent use of the word "believe" is some allusion to the importance of faith, of belief in a religion. According to the author, it isn't, although he's open to any interpretation. The film, however, has been heavily promoted by Christian evangelicals. Is the Polar Express an evangelical film?

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #23 on: November 01, 2018, 03:34:09 PM »
Dahl was also utterly revolted by beards, the nutjob.

Looking back I had a strange mix as a kid. Roald Dahl sat side by side with JK Rowling, Phillip Pullman, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Anthony Horowitz. I'm not sure they're as morally homogeneous as the OP here suggests. You've got atheism, parody, Christianity, sadism, high-fantasy, anti-fascist fables etc sitting side by side. Of them it's probably only Rowling and Lewis who try and smash you around the chops with a moral world view.

Unless you mean books for the wee nippers, but they're basically just "Where is my dog? Oh my dog is with the horse."

Dannyhood91

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2018, 05:20:12 PM »
I still hold The Edgeworld Chronicles in high regard.

Pingers

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #25 on: November 03, 2018, 07:58:38 PM »

Unless you mean books for the wee nippers, but they're basically just "Where is my dog? Oh my dog is with the horse."

Oh I dunno, there's Hilda Offen's fantastic "Nice Work Little Wolf" which is hugely entertaining slave rebellion story. Totally lost on the tiddlers of course but fun for adults.

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #26 on: November 04, 2018, 12:11:00 PM »
Janet and Allan Ahlberg's 'Peepo' is firmly set in the incorrectly remembered Britain of the right's wettest dreams. I won't have it in the house.

I don't think I read Peepo as a lad, but on the whole thought the Ahlberg's children's books were fantastic. Properly loved Burglar Bill and the cassette that came with it.

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #27 on: November 04, 2018, 02:15:39 PM »
My little boy loves Moomins and in one of the new books I got him, the Snorkmaiden has high heels on. It's really horrible, like she's gagging for it in her horrible lady's bedroom.

I am wanking as I write this.

Mister Six

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Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #28 on: November 04, 2018, 03:22:02 PM »
So I think an answer to the thread title'question might be found if we compare different generations of people with an eye on what children's books were in vogue when they were kids. I bet that the differences in attitudes between Generation X and Millienials has, in a small way, something to do with the former being the anarcho-sadist Dahl cohort, and the latter being part of the Harry Potter cohort.

What do you think those differences are?

(And aren't parents still raising their kids on Dahl? I know I will if I ever have any.)

Re: Does children's literature have any effect in the long run at all?
« Reply #29 on: November 04, 2018, 03:48:36 PM »
Dahl was also utterly revolted by beards, the nutjob.

Looking back I had a strange mix as a kid. Roald Dahl sat side by side with JK Rowling, Phillip Pullman, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Anthony Horowitz. I'm not sure they're as morally homogeneous as the OP here suggests. You've got atheism, parody, Christianity, sadism, high-fantasy, anti-fascist fables etc sitting side by side. Of them it's probably only Rowling and Lewis who try and smash you around the chops with a moral world view.

Unless you mean books for the wee nippers, but they're basically just "Where is my dog? Oh my dog is with the horse."

I don't think this is particularly uncommon, they're all huge children's authors and lots of children will be exposed to all of them.