Come into the Light – Darkness in Children’s books

July 8th, 2011 · 2 Comments »

Some people may be aware of the rampant debate taking place at the moment about darkness in Young Adult and Children’s books so I thought I best weigh in.

The article that sparked it is here.

To briefly summarise, a woman in a bookstore was confronted by hundreds of lurid and dramatic book covers and found nothing appropriate for her daughter. Young Adult books are accused of having no joy or beauty in them, only dark images of our world. Each year the American Library Association publishes a list of the most frequently challenged books, on which The Hunger Games is currently appearing. I’m finishing the last book in The Hunger Games at the moment and I think the themes in it are terrific and the violence etc is very much justified. It is no Chaos Walking trilogy but it is definitely addictive reading.

I think everything that can be said about this debate has been said, but of course I’m sure my million and twenty four fans out there are wondering What does Nathan Luff think about this? Well, thank you for asking. I can tell you that with much sarcasm I am in complete agreement that books are too dark these days. I mean imagine having a book cover that is dramatic? I personally think drama does not belong in a story. I’m sick of characters being challenged and facing real fears. Because of this I have written a story below for the woman in the bookshop to give to her daughter. The poor little girl, she would go to the shop herself but the bubblewrap dress she wears chafes badly when she walks.

A Story of Light by Nathan Luff

The beautiful girl opened her eyes and was blinded temporarily by the light. A butterfly flittered into her vision and she smiled. It was a cute butterfly with the body of a miniscule puppy instead of the gross insect bodies that they had back in the dark ages.

Suddenly a figure approached, coming fast towards her. The beautiful girl, whose name was Sophia, turned to face her visitor. She breathed a sigh of relief upon realising it was only her mother, laden with diet-approved cookies that had been modified to produce no crumbs.

‘I was scared,’ Sophia said, ‘I couldn’t see properly because of the light and I thought you might be something out to get me, like a cold breeze or a falling hatstand.’

They laughed together with much joy for four and a half hours.

‘Oh Sophia, you silly little duck, your imagination gets away on you; we haven’t had a falling hatstand since they banned anyone using freestanding objects. You must stop frightening yourself like that.’

‘I’m sorry mum. I’ll try to keep my fear at bay.’ Sophia said.

‘Good girl. Now, shall we skip around the park together for a while?’

‘Oh yes please.’

The end.•

• in the original version of this story a pack of monkeys appeared at this stage and ate the rest of the cookie before Sophia had a chance but I worried this might be too dramatic, especially because people will already have in their minds the dark image of a falling hatstand.

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2 Responses to “Come into the Light – Darkness in Children’s books”

  • Michelle

    Dude. Its funny, but it side steps the whole debate. America is filled with crazy Christians (I know, I’m trapped here temporarily, removed under duress from my natural habitat of Sydney). They love a good Bibley rant over here, but do you really think ALL young adult literature is OK? Some of it is downright sensationalised trashy crap, written only to make money, not help kids who need something to identify with, and I worry about it helping to dumb down an entire generation. Although I mostly blame that on Kim Kardashian. Lord help us if she decides to write a book.

  • Hi Michelle,

    I completely agree with you that there is a lot of trash out there and if Kim Kardashian does write a book then we might have to look at reintroducing book burning.

    While I have dumbed down the debate, I do have strong issue with banning books because of the themes and issues explored (and people assuming they know what teenagers are able to digest) – I feel like the dumbing down of the generation with commercial crap is another issue entirely and we need many of the books these groups are trying to ban because they are the books asking their readers to THINK – they are the books challenging ideas.

    If it is a debate about how much trashy vampire fiction there is in bookstores these days I will have to say TOO MUCH!

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