Friday, 18 October 2013

Children, Books, and a Burnt Bottom

There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.” – Neil Gaiman

When I read this edited version of Neil Gaiman’s recent lecture for the Reading Agency, I wanted to stand and clap my hands. Once in a while we hear or read the words of someone who is eminently qualified to remind us of what is important in our lives, and in the lives of our children. This is one such occasion.

Not only does Gaiman highlight the importance of information, but he gets a good plug in for Librarians, who can you help find not only what you’re looking for, but useful things you never knew existed. That resonates with me, as a former information professional.

But I found his views on how children engage with reading materials the most interesting, and I'm sure you will, too. Do click the link above, and take a few minutes to read the piece.

At the sharp end, and to prove there are no rules when reading a story as far as kids are concerned, SW recently produced, ‘The Troo Story of 3 Littel Pig’.


It’s a short work, but that’s because SW has dispensed with the need to retell the familiar story. She wanted to get straight to the moral of the tale, and how a ravenous wolf can experience an epiphany after immersing his backside in a pot of boiling stew.

The picture is a harrowing one. You only have to see the wolf’s twisted expression to figure that out. And the dialogue is revealing.


No, no, come back. Argh, I’ll never catch them.” Wolfy is obviously desperate to make his peace with the three little pigs, but is inhibited by a somewhat blistered bum.

Sorry, my tail is burnt, and now I have to be a vegetarian.”

If this isn’t a child’s imagination firing on all cylinders, I don’t know what is. Three cheers for Neil Gaiman!

13 comments:

  1. Brilliant rendering of an old story. You know what I'm going to ask, don't you?......

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  2. And three cheers for SW! I love her writing!

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    1. Thanks so much, Vicki. I'll be passing on your comments.

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  3. Great stuff. She is already exploring the consequences of actions. Sadly some folks never, ever seem to achieve that level of functioning.

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    1. The signs are good, jennyfreckles. She's a lovely girl, but I would say that, wouldn't I?

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  4. That is a very funny version of the fairy tale :)

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  5. I used to be a carnivor but It's all behind me now.... .
    I fully agree with Neil G.And what a relief! My Secret 7's & Famous 5's can now come out of hiding....

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  6. I love SW's work! And I agree with Neil Gaiman. I would add that good "children's literature" continues to bring great pleasure to grown-ups. At any age, every subsequent reading of a text is different, because the reader him/herself has changed in the meantime.

    I have very fond memories of my childhood librarian, Mrs. Gregg. When I had read all the books in the children's section of the library she allowed me to take out some carefully selected adult classics, which she discussed with me after I'd read them. I appreciated her not forcing me to read ALL the books in the children's section, because there were some pretty horrendous "Teen Nurse" and "Sweet Sixteen" things in there.

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  7. There is more philosophy and art in that one picture than in a university library full of set texts.

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  8. A child's mind at work is a marvel to behold. As for the originality issue, my first book was about Bambi. When my mom told me that it wasn't kosher to steal other people's characters, I promptly renamed the character Lightfoot. Problem solved!

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  9. That's brilliant!

    Reading is so inspiring for children, as Gaiman says, nothing is hackneyed for a child starting to read and whatever inspires them is good.

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