On Expecting Princes To Be Charming

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“I was raised to be charming, not sincere,” This is one of my favorite quotes from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods. It’s Prince Charming’s rational explanation to Cinderella when she finds out he’s a cad. Ah, the fairy tales of my youth! So many subtle messages sent to guide me on my way through life; through the woods.

Russ Towne, A Grateful Man, and I had an interesting conversation in the comment section of his December 29th post, “From the Other Side of the Door”. We were discussing the popularity of the movie Frozen. I find the movie quite sad; particularly the part where Anna is trying to coax her sister Elsa out from behind the locked door by singing, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” To me this is poignant and heartbreaking, reminiscent of the scene in Bambi when his mother is shot by a hunter.

Our conversation centered on the merits of these rather traumatic moments occurring in so many movies and children’s books. (We both write children’s books.) Although I understand the value of preparing children for the harsher realities of life using books, I feel strongly about my stories being of a more gentler nature. I want them to provide a sanctuary from the barrage of callous cruelty hurled at us every day, not only on the news, but also in our own communities – those villages it takes to raise a child. We agreed there is a need for both kinds of books.

I have an innate belief: Children should be protected by the adults in their lives. This responsibility includes being careful about the emotions stirred and the subtle messages found within the books we choose to read with them, especially at bedtime. We should be cognizant of the age-appropriateness of these books. Literature certainly is a strong tool to be used in helping to open discussions on very difficult topics, but there can be an “angst factor” inherent in reading certain books with little ones. “Are my parents going to leave me? Are they going to die? Is there a monster lurking in the shadows, waiting to steal me away?”

Flying Horse

In my book,  A Berkshire Tale, ZuZu’s Mama tells her stories at bedtime. “What would you like to hear?” she asks, after ZuZu has a particularly harrowing  experience battling a ghost horse in the sky. “Anything without monsters in it,” the kitten answers with a sigh. They share a story in the warmth of the hay loft as the little tabby falls to sleep listening to her mother’s voice. “Sweet dreams, Little One,” she whispers to her  baby.

The written word is a powerful tool. I taught literature to teenagers for twenty years and used books, poems, stories, essays to launch many in-depth discussions about difficult topics. Hopefully, some of my students learned from these stories and possibly even avoided the mistakes made by characters within the covers of a book. Or maybe they learned  lessons about heroism or kindness or gratitude? Or maybe it prepared them for dealing with something difficult in the future? Identifying and empathizing with the literary characters with which we sometimes bond is a truly valuable experience.  I am just not so convinced that children need this “preparation” to take place so very early in their lives. I could have done without the whole “Bambi experience” myself. And I’m quite sure some of the fairy tales those of my generation read sent out messages best not received.

And now we’ve circled back to the beginning of this post and Prince Charming. Fact: I know all the lyrics to Snow White’s plaintive song, “Some Day My Prince Will Come.” I walked around singing it as a child.

Someday my prince will come.

Some day I’ll find my love.

And how thrilling that moment will be,

When the prince of my dreams comes to me.

He’ll whisper ‘I love you’,

And steal a kiss or two.

Though he’s far away,

I’ll find my love some day.

Some day when my dreams come true.

Ironically, I actually did meet a man who has proven to be quite charming and loving and kind. And he added much to my already full life when we finally married. But I didn’t go through my life dreaming of a the perfect wedding day; the perfect wedding dress. Between the fairy tales and the ad companies, amidst all the emphasis on being the center of attention, on cakes and bridesmaid dresses and venues and favors and DJ’s, what chance do girls and young women have of grasping what should be the most important lesson of their lives? A relationship, a life together, needs to start and rest upon the firm ground created by two caring people. And that has nothing at all to do with the expensive superficialities of one “perfect” day. Fairy Tales! And don’t even get me into a conversation about wicked stepmothers and the negative relationships between women that concept has fostered.

After spending time hashing these ideas out with Russ (who not only is grateful but also very wise), I decided to watch one of the newer Disney movies, Maleficent.  Its basis lies in the Sleeping Beauty Fairy Tale but the treatment of the story is different as is the ending. The themes of True Love, Betrayal  and Revenge resonate through this movie. There are some very dark moments. The questions of “How do you define true love? Does it really exist? How do we define what makes a hero and a  villain?”are answered with much thoughtfulness. But I doubt if I would have a very young child watch this with me.

And so, I’m wondering if any of you have favorite books or tales that made an impression on you as a  child? Was it a lasting impression? Because many are.

I started this post with Sondheim’s Into the Woods and I’ll end there with lyrics from

Children Will Listen

Careful the things you say,

Children will listen.

Careful the things you do,

Children will see and learn.

Children may not obey

But, children will listen.

Children will look to you

For which way to turn,

To learn what to be.

Careful before you say,

“Listen to me”.

Children will listen.

.

 

 

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108 thoughts on “On Expecting Princes To Be Charming

    1. I will check your chatter event out immediately! Thanks! I’m only posting once a week because of the writing. Sometimes I’m not even sure if I’ll get even one post published, but so far I’m keeping up. We’re doing fine here in cold RI. Hope all is well with you.

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  1. Thank you, Clare. This post is so full of wisdom and clarity that although I was in a hurry to head out the door for a meeting I consciously slowed down as I began reading it to savor each part of your message, each glimpse of your beautiful spirit. I too have enjoyed our conversations and look forward to your books.
    Russ

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  2. Hi Clare! Jacki has been reading your book to her twin boys! She loves it! I agree with what you said and literature can teach very valuable lessons. I have always wondered why some children’s books have such harsh messages. Love, Lynn

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    1. I’m glad Jacki is enjoying the ZuZu series. I get a lot of positive feedback from adults who bought the books for themselves or their older parents. Nostalgia, I guess?? I’m all for the more gentler, kinder books. Anyone who has taught teenagers knows that the world is tough enough for kids without reminding them of it every night before they fall asleep. PS I was just on your blog getting your recipe for chicken pot pie. Yummy!

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      1. Lynn, The chicken pot pie is in the oven and it smells great. Charley is officiating at a track meet and it should be ready for him when he gets home. I’ll make sure to let it cool a bit, per your instructions. Wish I could share it with you, too.

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  3. The “Fairy tales” of our youth were always fairly dark, no? I guess my philosophy was that if my daughter was to be exposed to some of life’s cruelties through popular fiction, then at least I should provide her with strong role models… So rather than Cinderella, who needed that prince to rescue her, or Snow White, who was dumb enough to take that apple in spite of ample warning… (DUH!) I exposed her to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena, Warrior Princess. I didn’t necessarily shield her from dark themes, but I certainly put in my two cents along the way. For instance, I never cared for Disney’s “Dumbo” because the poor creature was mercilessly picked upon for being “different” until his “redeeming” flight capability was discovered. Likewise Rudolph… As if these two beings didn’t merit respect without their magical powers. Pffft!

    So today, we discuss how sensible it is to wait until she is out of high school before thinking about finding a boyfriend, and she sees pretty clearly how some of her friends are struggling to navigate teenage “relationships.” So far in her 17 years, she saw me lose a very close friend to cancer when she was 4, watched me struggle with her grandmother’s Dementia for 10 years, has a number of friends with divorced or deceased parents… Gay friends, financially struggling friends, etc. Life is what it is, and my kid has had a pretty cushy life, compared to many. I was much more careful to shield her from “real life” threats like the internet, than from fictional stories which could be explained as fantasy. I guess only time will tell how my methods will work out, eh? 😉

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    1. I think your methods are great. I see pictures of Paige taking karate or in the school band or with her friends at Halloween and it makes me smile. The points you make about strong female role models are elements I didn’t put in my post. I just touched on the negative effects of girls waiting for their princes and their “perfect” wedding day.Much of that comes from my own experience with Charley’s daughter and some of the terrible experiences my friends have had with their daughters’ first and second wedding extravaganzas. Life is tough and we can’t shield our kids from what inevitably will come their way and books and karate and discussions are all things we can use to help them. I love how you brought in the internet, my techie friend. That is a parent’s nightmare if not carefully monitored. I dealt with some of these “modern day” cell phone and social media problems as a school principal and it had only started to come into play at the time. I can’t imagine how administrators are handling these issues now. Thanks, Peg. You always make me think out of the box.
      Clare

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  4. I just saw Jacki’s comment about reading your book to her twin boys. While I knew you were were writing books, I’d somehow missed that you’d already published one. As I think about it, I now recall our recent conversation about the MA and RI locations, so of course you’ve already written one! I just went to Amazon to find it and there it was. My preference would be to buy Berkshire Tales directly from you (but if you’d prefer I’d be happy to buy it from Amazon so I can be a “Confirmed Buyer” (or whatever they call it) when I leave a review. Please let me know which you prefer, and if a direct sale, please let me know the total cost including shipping and handling. I plan to read it to my grandchildren (including, by coincidence with Jacki’s comments, a pair of twin boys.)

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    1. Jacki is actually reading it aloud to her two twins who are not born yet. They’re due in a few months. I love when mothers start their babies enjoying reading time with them even before they’re born.. I think she’s going to be a great parent. I would like to inscribe it for you and would be glad to send you one. I’ll do that and figure out the cost later. I think Thomas and the twins will love having you read it to them. Some of the stories may be a bit old as it’s written for 8+ (and adult children like us) but I’m sure you’ll do all the voices of ZuZu’s animal friends in her Berkshire barn. Don’t forget, Alpaca hum. Hearing a whole classroom of 1st graders hum along with me is a real hoot.

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      1. Thank you, Clare. I’d love to have the book inscribed by you, and to know the amount I’ll owe to you for sending the book to me. Thank you, also for giving a heads-up to me that alpaca’s hum. I had no idea!

        I also re-read the original comment about Jacki and noticed it actually came from Lynz Real Cooking, so my apologies to the latter.

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      2. Russ, your books arrived this afternoon. Oh, frabjous day!!!!!!!!! I love them. Next week, I’ll be reading them with a little girl who visits me often and enjoys books (especially Dr. Zeus). I’ll be mailing my book to you and apologize for my procrastination. The mystery with it’s characters and plots, has stolen much of my time. Thank you and I’ll visit soon. Clare,

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  5. Clare- thanks so much for writing this post!! We absolutely need to shield the children from harsh realities while they’re very young. Most fairy tales are unfit to even read to kids, imho.
    I can’t wait to get ahold of a copy of ZuZu’s books!
    Love, Melinda

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  6. What a thought provoking post this is. I was brought up on Grimm’s Fairy Tales and stories from Greek mythology which are also pretty harsh (though I don’t remember thinking so at the time) and also books like What Katy Did, Little Women, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven series. I was the child who always had her head stuck in a book. I wept reading Black Beauty and a Scottish story Greyfriars Bobby about a dog who refused to leave his master’s grave – there’s a statue of the dog in Edinburgh. In fact, I couldn’t bring myself to read either of those to my own son! For a time when I was a teenager I devoured horror stories – then I decided I didn’t want to scare myself silly any more and stopped.
    I’m not sure if we should try to shield young children too much by not introducing them to the old fairy stories. I suspect it’s as we become oldrer we start reading between the lines and seeing some of the hidden messages.
    I’m trying to think what I’d do if I had a young child in the house but son is all grown up and no grandchildren are on the horizon! I shall continue to ponder this post for some time to come. Thank you.

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    1. I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time; especially the thoughts on advertising’s and media’s effects on girls today. The manipulation really makes me fume some times. I knew it would start a conversation and I’m open to all perspectives.Everyone has to choose what the children around them can manage. Some children are so much more sensitive than others. I was a tougher individual as a child, although I stopped reading Little Women the moment Beth died and never read the ending.After being taken to see Bambi, I refused to read any books where an animal died, therefore I’ve never seen Old Yeller. But I did name my dog Bambi.Age has made me more sensitive to how these things effect little children and the elderly. When I watch and listen, I always notice that they seem very vulnerable in this modern society of ours. And I feel strongly about reading something calming to little ones before bedtime. Sleep should be a respite from any fears they may bring to bed with them. wonder fun thoughts which have me thinking, too. Thanks, Mary. P.S. I saw the statue and was told the story of Greyfriar’s Bobby when I was last in Edinborough. I cried.

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  7. Thank you for such a thought-provoking and powerful post Clare. I guess next in line of importance to words is that adults are there to filter the story contents. The song, Children Will Listen from Into the Woods expresses this beautifully. The idea that fairy tales were originally meant for children is contentious. If that’s the case then no wonder they’re scary. ‘Many times the question, “What is a fairy tale?” has been asked. One has said: “The fairy tale is a poetic presentation of a spiritual truth.” ‘
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/etc/sft/sft07.htm

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    1. I love that explanation. It goes right to the core of it all. Robyn. Thank you for the link. I’m going there next. At that time, children were actually thought of as little adults which may explain why the grownups felt no qualms in scaring the bejesus out of the tykes with those fairy tales. Grimm was truly grim in the strictest sense of the word. I think I really do need to lighten up a bit, though, in my next posts.

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      1. I like your posts just the way they come – straight from the heart! Yes Grimm by name and grim by nature. Good point you raise about the historical concept of childhood. So many fairytale are morally instructive and are told and retold in different ages and from different cultural perspectives. Some make political innuendos and others are tales to scare the ‘bejesus’, as you say, out of kids to keep them in line (my dad used to use that expression).
        Angela Carter researched fairy tales and rewrote many in her anthologies e.g. The Bloody Chamber. This one definitely not for children! I loved her book The Magic Toyshop.
        When you have time, check her out at http://www.angelacartersite.co.uk/

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      2. Robyn, I just finished reading “The History of Fairy Tales” in your link and it was truly informative. In the 4th chapter it discusses the different types of fairy tales and which are appropriate for very young children. There was much to take in and I’ll reread all of it another time. I’m familiar with Carter’s “The Magic Toy Shop” and appreciate the link to her site.I’ll open it later tonight.Yes, “bejesus” was a term my grandmother used and I thought it was a perfect for the context. (She was born in England) Thanks for all of the information and for spending time with me in a deeper discussion of the post. Clare

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  8. I so share your concern with what we feed to children in terms of sadness, badness and kindness and goodness. Of course we have to guard against the syrop effect but I do think that it is wrong to burden the young by scaring them. Generally a child’s imagination will provide sufficient shocks without adding to them. That said, one of my favourite children’s books is very sad in the end – Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Selfish Giant’. But all the children I have shared it with over many many years find comfort rather than tragedy in it’s ending. I suppose because there is a hint of heaven after the Giant’s death. Disney debates are a fascination unto themselves of course and I am a self-renowned expert in the field 😉

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    1. Walt did not have that great a childhood. His own imagineers criticized the darkness in the works he produced. I think he had to be working something out and that opens up another whole conversation on writing stories with children. I’d love to chat with you about Disney some time. Did you see Maleficent?

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      1. There is a show in england called ‘Mastermind’ and you have to answer questions first on a specialist subject. Mine would be ‘The length feature cartoon films of Walt Disney from Snow White to Mulan’ As the children have grown and flown and I am not yet blessed (is it blessed?) with grandchildren, I have had to rely on downloading. I caught up with Maleficent when I was staying with my youngest in Liverpool in the summer – she had insisted I HAD to see it. I found Angelina’s characterisation to be altogether less evil that the original in Sleeping Beauty who terrified me as a child. Disney himself certainly appeared always to be almost using his creations as therapy. Now that can be critisised but actually I think that writing is always a form of ‘working things out’ at some level. That he was producing for children and had an understanding that childhood is not always sweet innocence and candyfloss maybe is the enduring appeal of his films. My one rule when my children were growing up was not to us film or TV as a babysitter. We watched together. How many times have I therefore see them all. the same went for books – even when the girls could read well for themselves, I still read to them and with them. I wonder if some of the critisism of ‘darkness’ in childrens literature and films therefore comes from the tendency to think that the work can do your work for you and that you can just leave children to suck it up on their own. Which of course they will but at least I think there should be a safety net and stabilisers in the process … a gradual letting out of the apron strings till the child is appropriately flying on its own ….

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      2. And yet, his brother Roy had the same upbringing but empathized with people in a way Walt could not. When his workers tried to form a union, Walt bitterly fired them. Roy, instead, listened and understood them and tried to be a mediator; a calming presence. I think theres’s a great analogy in the whole Disney story that makes my point. Walt had the same dark underlay as his movies. Most people only see his “beloved,sweet uncle” persona and miss the inner, harder core that sometimes caused hurt to others he should have been protecting (i.e. his loyal imagineers who had been like family to him). Just as many people see his works as fun, family fare, they underestimate the effect the dark inner core some of those movies can have on very young children, those we should be protecting because they are so vulnerable. With very young children,we should use a cautionary approach and look deeper into what we choose for them to read or see; especially at bedtime. Your apron strings approach is what adults should always follow. So many of our generation use words like “terrified” and “heartbroken” to describe our feelings in experiencing those movies as children, only expressing this in our later years. I don’t remember ever discussing those movies and the emotions they elicited with the grownup or teenage babysitter who brought us to them. I definitely see the benefits and appeal of the deeper, more adventurous and exciting movies and books for older children. They can handle these themes which are useful life lessons for them. And they are capable of talking about them with other children or adults therefore processing them in a healthier way than a younger child is able to. (P.S. Any child fortunate enough to have you as a grandmother will be twice blest or blessed.)

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      3. I am most interested in this …. I did not know about his brother having only read bits a pieces (note to self – I need to find a good biography) In terms of the effect of the malignant on small children I am absolutely as one with you. In fact, I am certain I was quite a bit older when I was first taken to see a Disney film – I believe it was Peter Pan, a book that by then I would have been familiar with. Thank you for your kind words about my future grandchildren … I hope I can live up to that should the time come and in the mean time I am happy being surrogate Granny to the children that fall on my path 🙂

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      4. PBS did a wonderful American Masters Presentation last year on Disney.Although it was far from complimentary, it was fair and factual in its presentation. He certainly was a genius, but had his flaws. Roy, a very caring man, was with his brother through everything.Charley loves Disney World and we visit every year. He was interested in the great mind behind the creation and so we have books and many other Disney memorabilia around the house. When I give talks and such about A Berkshire Tale, I describe it as an “adult/children’s book because I actually wrote it for myself. (More of a dream world then a catharsis, actually) I believe Maurice Sendak said “I write books and people tell me they’re for children…” C.E. Lewis, “If you have something important to say, write a children’s book.” (both somewhat paraphrased, because memory does not serve me well)
        I think my gentle, charming book is my own answer/reaction to books and films of my childhood. The ones that frightened me or made me sad for days. And I was a smart,tough little kids who grew into a tough big kid. So, I’m sensitive about the feelings of those very little ones being read to at bed time today. I agree, older children need danger and excitement to keep them interested in reading. A commenter on another blog about the books of her youth described one as “scarring her for life.” I laughed at this comment, but saw some truth in it, so I wrote my own opinionated post and have received so many thought- filled comments like yours. This week, Charley and I are going to see the new Star Wars Movie in 3D. The first one is his son Ben’s favorite movie. As a child, Charley took him to see it because the Disney children’s movie they originally intended to see was sold out. I don’t know if Charley would have brought him into the theatre if he’d known what Star Wars was about, but they both loved it. Charley says that Ben stood wide-eyed through the whole thing. Lovely memory and not scarring at all.

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      5. 1) I will try and find that documentary 2) you have wakened a need in me to find out more about Disney 3) CS Lewis – I imagine you have seen and read Shadowlands …. it is beautiful. I’m an Oxford girl so of course Lewis and indeed Tolkein are part of my fabric and that of my children 4) I find your take on writing children’s books very interesting. I have never written for children but everything I write is in some way cathartic. 5) Enjoy Star Wars – this story of the young Ben is very interesting and brings to mind my grandmother taking my brother and I (small me was 6 years old) to see The Sound of Music. She had the week wrong and had us watching The Great Train Robbery … I remember being a little confused that the story was not what mummy had told me and there were no songs but I was certainly unscarred by the experience even though there were sawn off shot-guns and blood involved in the plot!

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      6. I videotaped Shadowlands a long, long time ago. It is quite beautiful, particular his relationship with her two boys and caring for them when she is ill. Toutparmoi made a very keen observation about children empathizing more with animals’ tragedies than they do with human tragedies because of an animal’s dependency on the good will of adults and their inability to communicate complex feelings to us.I(See previous comment) I think this is brilliant! We’re going to the new Star Wars movie this afternoon. Charley is a big fan, so he’s looking forward to it.

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  9. What an interesting topic. I was brought up on the unexpurgated tales of the Brothers Grimm and the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and I absolutely hate the schmaltzy Walt Disney/Hollywood versions. I think these stories, dark as they are, convey messages to children about the human psyche that they need to learn early. Stories about animals are a different matter. I once read a comment (can’t remember where) to the effect that children are unfazed by tales of human tragedy, but they’re easily upset by animal tragedies. The reason? Children identify with animals because they see them as dependent upon the goodwill of adults and (lacking language skills) incapable of communicating their complex thoughts and feelings. That makes sense to me.

    Is it also a generational thing? One time I was with a group of friends and we were talking about the first movies we saw. (No TV in NZ when we baby boomers were little.) Mine was “Blackbeard the Pirate”. I loved it. Someone said that was a violent movie to take a child to, but then everyone laughed and said it was sex we weren’t supposed to know about, not violence!

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    1. The comments I’ve received on this post are so illuminating ! (as I knew they would be.) These conversations are actually more interesting than the post itself. The point you take about children and their empathy with animals is perfect. And yes, it is definitely a generational thing. Also, your friend really nailed it!

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    2. I too was brought up on Grimms and Hans Christian Anderson as well as Disney and brought up my own children likewise. And of course on Roald Dahl (another troubled child). I also read Struwwelpeter as a small child but did not share the stories with my own children til much later. I am certain that there is sense in what you say about children identifying with animal tragedies and indeed, the worst scars of my own childhood are animal related. I remember watching The Belston Fox and not being able to sleep for crying several days later due to a scene where the hounds wander onto the track and are hit by a train. I was not at all disturbed by Grand Prix which contains several deaths of motor racing drivers though I must have seen them around the same time … probably 9 or 10 years old at a guess. Most interesting.

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      1. Osyth, The comment on children empathizing more with animals in books than people must be credited to toutparmoi. It has had me thinking back on my own reactions to stories of my youth. And I must agree, I react much more to the injury or death of an animal than an adult (like a race driver). We saw Star Wars tonight and Charley felt that although he took his son to the first movie when he was little, he would definitely not have taken him to this one until he was much older. I wish I could post the comments and conversations I’ve been having about this one post during the past few days. They are all so enlightening! Hugs, Clare

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      2. It’s a fascinating discussion and I did answer @toutparmoi in the thread as I understood they had raised the Childs ability to empathize with animal tragedy point. Hugs back from snowy Stow 🙂

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      3. I chanced upon this site from a new follower from Greece, M.L. Kappa (also very interesting). It centers around a French woman, caregiver for her “Little Family” (sister and cousin), who lives on what appears to be an old estate in Dordogne.
        It’s entitled Sketches and Vignettes from la Dordogne: Diary of a new Provincial Lady and is written by Camille de Fleursville. She has taken the title from E.M. Delafield’s The Diary of a Provincial Lady. The tone is somewhat elitist but the language is melodious and her descriptions are poetic, even when she digresses. Her latest post is about the failure of her heating system and is entitled “Siberia in la Dordogne”. I’m sure you can empathize with her plight having to deal with the renovation of an older french building, yourself. Since you are up in snowy Stowe, you will have a sense of the coldness as well. Last year we sold our condo in New Hampshire and so dealing with the detritus is something with which I can identify. Now back to writing the 23rd chapter of a murder mystery…..Take care and stay warm, Hugs, Clare

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      4. Thank you for this introduction … I will seek Mme de Fleursville out later today – she sounds like someone I will enjoy. Houses are like lovers – demanding and entrancing in equal measure and at their worst when being asked to change 😉

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      5. I’ve been thinking more about this, too. When I was about 4 or 5 someone gave me a book about a kangaroo (who died) and I teared up so much when my mother read it to me that it was “banned”. And later the story of Greyfriars Bobby haunted me. I didn’t know how much until I visited Edinburgh about 7 years ago and (spoiler alert) was relieved to discover that he’d lived a comfortable life in a nearby hotel, and while he may have visited the grave occasionally he certainly didn’t sit there day and night.

        Once I started choosing my own reading material I tended to avoid animal stories unless I knew for sure that they’d be happy ones, but as a little history addict there wasn’t much I didn’t know about what humans were capable of doing to each other and I can’t say it ever kept me awake at night.

        Plus the language thing. Most people can probably remember occasions when, as children, they wanted to explain something (often in their own defense) but couldn’t find the words to do it. Or what they said didn’t come out right. Today I chanced to hear a poet being interviewed on the radio refer to the challenge of “putting the intensity of the lived experience into language”. Well, we all struggle with that, but children, with their smaller vocab and a possible lack of patient listeners, have the greatest struggle. And they know animals can’t do it all.

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      6. I can’t even watch a news story about a mistreated animal. And tuning into the nightly news, it must be assumed there will be an overload of cruelty and grief. But my “News aversion” extends to children and elderly and the helpless and there is the point you’ve been making so well.. None of these can do it all. They are dependent on the kindness of people around them (many times strangers) I think I am a very young child at heart.

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      7. I think you have a very good point about language. It’s simply frustrating for a child (or indeed a less articulate adult) to lack the words to express their feelings. I love the quote from the poet btw – it says it perfectly. In terms of animals in fiction, I am certain that the boundaries must, therefore, be different.

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  10. This is a very interesting and thought provoking post, Clare. Children’s stories have traditionally been used to impart lessons rather than to simply entertain and so can touch upon some difficult subjects. The lessons taught by fairy tales very much reflect the era in which they originated which can lead to their messages (such as girls waiting for their prince to arrive and rescue them) being incompatible with modern values. I’m not sure angsty subjects should be avoided entirely but they definitely ought to be handled in a way that doesn’t cause too much anxiety to the child. During my brief foray into teaching I had to teach a class of 6 and 7 years olds about loss and grief and that was done through a storybook (Badger’s Parting Gifts). It was a difficult topic to teach without traumatising the children but was something that the educational system felt was necessary. Personally I prefer to write about less difficult topics in my own kid’s stories. 🙂

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    1. Louise, I totally agree with you. Stories are wonderful tools but the storyteller needs to know her audience and use caution in choosing when and where to use those tools. Every child is different and some are much more sensitive to the emotions swirling madly around in some stories and therefore need more time to process.This post has elicited the most interesting conversations of any I’ve done since beginning blogging last April. Thanks for being part of this ongoing discussion. Clare

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    1. Yes, as a retired teacher,I thought it was very interesting that afairymind (Louise) had to teach about loss and grief to 6 and 7 year-olds. I know I would have had trouble doing that with high schoolers, myself. I think I’m going to avoid that Badger story, though.

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    1. Kerry, I was scarred for life and don’t get me going on Little Women! I had to say, though, I felt bad for Sleeping Beauty’s poor mother who just pined away and died. What was that guy thinking, sending the child away! Obviously he wasn’t!

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      1. Did you know that the little blonde girl who played Sleeping Beauty as a toddler was Angelina’s real daughter? They couldn’t get any little children to run up and put their arms around Maleficent. She was much too scary and made them cry, so they had to use her own Little Beastie.And I sincerely doubt your claim to superficiality. I’ve visited your blog! Sleep tight! Clare

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  11. Interesting post and discussion. I agree that children should be protected by the adults in their lives and age-appropriateness is key. Looking back now as a child I really could have done without the happily ever after. Taking age-appropriateness into consideration I think we can balance the messages we give our children without sugar coating them. When I raised my now 3 grown sons I was a little more pragmatic with them partly because of real life experiences and they turned out remarkably well. Being partial to boys because i didn’t have any daughters I would like to think that if I had girls I would have raised them the same way. Fairy tales have their time and place but I think, depending on their ages, gently explaining reality provides a good balance and gives them the tools they need to more effectively navigate life.

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    1. Stephanae, I think “balance ” is the correct way to approach this “reading to young ones” we’ve all been discussing. A good book in the hands of someone sensitive to their feelings and who’ll take time to explain reality makes for grownups who turn out well. And turning out well doesn’t just happen. There’s always an understanding adult somewhere in the background. Thanks for adding your comment to our discussion. Clare

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  12. I never daydreamed about my wedding day as a child. I dreamed of far away places and adventures. When I got older I thought that wedding isn’t that important and that I could just live with my partner without a piece of paper and an expensive ceremony. However, when I did meet my husband and when our relationship progressed and we started living together I began to feel that I actually wanted to be married. We organized our wedding in a couple of months and had a nice ceremony ( I had a gorgeous dress:) ) but my main focus wasn’t the ceremony itself. Actually I was more looking forward to our honeymoon:) Marriage is a lot of things, wedding is just a start, a big party, it’s not what life together as a family is.

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    1. Tanja, I can identify with your experience. I never wanted to get married until Charley convinced me that it would be great. We landed a simple ceremony and party in a few months (actually, things just fell in place). And in the end, he was right. Who knew? This seems to be a good formula. We should copyright it! Where did you go on your honeymoon? Clare

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  13. A lot of very valid and interesting points in this post, Clare. Stories are so mportant to children, and dealing with any difficult/unpappy/taumatising events in life is a tricky one. I realise that children eventually need to think about subjects like loss and death, but they must also be able to enjoy a loving, carefree childhood, especially in the early years. Even some of the well known fairy tales can be scary for little ones. I really enjoyed reading your views on the matter, Clare. I don’t write children’s books myself, but will definitely come to you for advice if I decide to do so.

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    1. I am probably a bit overprotective. It was interesting getting other people’s points of view. It gives a much broader perspective and gets me to thinking outside the box. Thanks, Millie. I’m just taking a little time away from the mystery to respond to blog comments. I’ll stop by your blog later today. Hopefully, I’ll even get a post done,myself this weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was lovely for me to spend a little time reading people’s posts, but I won’t be on my blog properly for a few weeks yet, Clare. I have lots of travel posts from last year I can write up quickly to keep me in touch, if need be. I’ll have a look for your post on Sunday, before I disppear again for a while!

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  14. You know Clare, I never did dream about getting married. And technically, we aren’t. But I can’t imagine living my life with anyone else beside me. He is like water for my soul, a necessity. And you are so right, children learn so much just by watching. And there are so many questionable children’s books out there that have too much violence in them. How is that entertaining for a toddler?

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    1. Yes, I feel the same way about Charley. We dated for three years and lived together and I liked that just fine. I knew we’d be together forever whether we had a ceremony or not. (He wanted to throw a party, so that’s what we ended up doing.) I love your description “water for my soul”.( A beautiful thought on many levels.)
      I really do agree with you about being careful with children’s books, especially at bedtime. I think adventure stories are great, but violence just shouldn’t be part of the bedtime ritual.I’ll visit soon. Clare

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Excellent post, good topic!
    So happy to hear you have these thoughts in mind when writing for children. Good for you!
    I was recently horrified on discovering some of the books currently on the UK schools reading list. There are such wonderful stories and great writers to choose from. I’m shocked at the way horror is pushed even at primary level. There seems a complete absence of concern as to how these kind of twisted books are perverting young minds. I sometimes wish books were rated in the same way as movies, but maybe this wouldn’t help. It all depends on your criterion, and trendy or popular seems to outweigh ethical. I think if they took a moment to ask themselves if they would like their future citizens to grow up in the image of some of the current literary role models they might change their minds.

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    1. Claire, Very good reasons to be careful about what we read to young children. I am not an advocate of banning books, but I think that age-appropriate levels with explanations regarding the content of a book is a very good idea. As children get older they can choose for themselves, but very little children depend on the adults around them to show wisdom and caring.I’ll have to find out more about books in UK schools. 📚Clare📚

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  16. I had many favourite books as a child: Little Women, Little Men, A Rose in Bloom, Anne of Green Gables etc.
    But, when I had children of my own I came upon a wonderful book called “The Indian in the Cupboard” about a boy who has his plastic toys come to life in a magic cupboard. There are so many lessons in it about our responsibility when it comes to others, respect for another’s dignity and kindness. I highly recommend it. It is by author, Lynn Reid Banks.

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  17. I think children feel powerless for the most part and they are. Honestly, I think the child shoving the witch in the oven or the prince rescuing the princess, actually makes the small child feel some sense of empowerment.

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    1. Yes, I think so, too, for some children. You can see it in their nervous laughter when the villain has been overtaken by the hero. There is an utter sense of relief in the sound. PS – I’ve been spending time this afternoon in the Senior Salon and I thank you for taking on such an endeavor.I left my link and used up the rest of my laptop’s battery life reading some of the interesting posts there. Thank you,again, Bernadette.

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