Re: Is AR a 'childrens writer'?

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Posted by Allan_Lang on October 14, 2004 at 21:39:06 from user Allan_Lang.

In Reply to: Is AR a 'childrens writer'? posted by Mike Dennis on October 12, 2004 at 08:22:15:

: - Writing for children is sometimes seen as an 'easy option' - just look at the celebrities who 'write' a book for children

Well more correctly "aimed at children". This doesn't work, for as WE Johns noted "I give boys what they want, not what their elders and betters think they ought to read".

: - His use of language is a good pointer;

Beg to differ. After readiscovering Ransome after 40 years, and finding he was just as (good as) I remembered. I ventured to rediscover Richmal Crompton's William books. And these were not as I remembered. Oh the characters, plots, jokes were there, as fresh as when I first read them. But "he makes little or no concessions for his readers who are children", applies tenfold to Crompton. My first foray "William and the Temporary History Master" left me stunned. Had I at age c.11½ taken the trouble to read a story that took a page to set the background of William's "history master, a mild and elderly man, conveniently short-sighted, conveniently deaf, and still more conveniently fond of expounding his own historical theories without in the least minding whether anyone listened to them or not, caught scarlet fever and was removed to hospital" necessitating the arrivial of the temporary? And Had I read with equanimity words like "histrionic", and "sycophantic"?

As difficult as I find it to believe now, the answer was yes. Yet then as now, I was convinced Crompton was a "children's writer"

: - So what is a 'childrens writer'? Whatever definition you use, I don't think AR was one.

I think what makes a children's book is a child's world view. Most early books for children were adult view books designed to instruct children in conformity the to society approved morality. The best children's books from the great century of children's books (1860-1960) took a different morality, one which may conflict with the adult one, but is present as a valid one that the child could develop herself*, without, or even despite, adult instruction.

The great example is in Twain's Huck Finn Where Huck, knowing all Laws of God and Man condemn his decision, nonetheless decides to help Jim escape the slave catchers "Very well, then I'll go to Hell".

While presenting the morality as child developed, it really isnt that new. As presented in the great children's books, it's the old Norse morality. To quote Kevin Crossley-Holland The Norse Myths "value life itself; censure naïveté; cherish and celebrate friendships; beware of treachery; practise moderation; be hospitable (but not too hospitable); try to win the fame and good name that will outlive you: these are the leitmotifs of the Havamal" (and Ransome).

(* the first book that really took the child centred outlook was Alice in Wonderland)

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