In a world where political correctness has reached heights of unprecedented insanity -- what has happened in children’s literature? Sometimes it appears all gates of moral duty have disappeared in the face of ‘challenging’ works.
Now I am absolutely for challenging themes. But within a framework where the child can return to steady ground, once the darkness has been shared. Mildred Taylor, in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, did not shy from disturbing scenes of racism, but stayed within unspoken boundaries. Equally, in The Other Side of Truth, Beverley Naidoo dealt with political oppression and exile from a child’s point of view that left the child, ultimately, empowered.
Other writers, however, seem to suggest that chaos can be written, and it is up to the child to determine the parameters of logic, and moral sense. But a child’s cognitive development is not considered mature until twelve years of age, and in any case a child forming its own code of morals must inevitably absorb partially from its environment. The age-old debate of nurture v nature will continue to rage, but meanwhile I feel an author of children’s literature must have some sense of care to the young minds to whom it speaks.
Our world is open to all. There are no troubles, or atrocities, that can be hidden from our young.
But in the world of fiction, they enter into a pact of trust with the author. Whether they read to escape a difficult environment, or to feel someone understands the darkness in which they may find themselves, or yet for those lucky enough to be born into a safe home, to step outside of their comfort zone; the author has a choice where they are led. Humor, tolerance, empathy and compassion.
Of course not all stories are created to challenge. Some are lighter at heart. Yet within all good tales, isn’t there a message? I try to share my love of the natural world, and our beautiful wildlife. Whether my readers will develop an ecological conscience will be up to them, but all I can do is describe the beauty I see, and let them decide. However, whatever occurs in my YA fantasy novel, TOXICS – if I do take the reader somewhere threatening – I aim we always come out together!
Is there a book you read during your childhood that has affected you, long-term? If so, in what way?
Her novel, TOXICS, aimed at 11-14 year olds, was released in December 2013 and is available in paperback and as an ebook, from Amazon, Kobo, or directly from the publisher. She is currently writing its sequel, OCEANS, which will be available in the autumn of 2014.