In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two small girls and a baby boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Selective editing

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Seeing those images from Fireboat of the planes heading toward the towers, I'm not sure if I'M ready to read it with Eleanor yet. Both of the books you write about in depth, though, do seem like good possibilities in the near future.

A propos of this topic, I was talking to my friend Cyd a few days ago about the selective editing we are sometimes tempted to do as parents when reading to our children books which are mostly fabulous but contain one or two highly disturbing moments.  I've written about reading Betsy-Tacy to Eleanor for the first time and eliding the death of Tacy's baby sister (on second reading, we talked about it ahead of time and read it with the full text, and Eleanor seemed totally capable of handling it).

Cyd, mother of three girls, is currently reading the All-of-a-Kind Family series to her eldest, Rebekah.  I remember the series dimly from my own childhood -- it's about a family of five girls living on the Lower East Side at the turn of the century -- but I don't think it made as much of an impression on me as it did on Cyd's family.  (Here's her sister, writing about it on one of our favorite blogs, Even in Australia.)

When the mother of a boy in one of the later books gets sick and is in the hospital, Rebekah got terribly worried about her, and asked about her welfare every night when Cyd sat down again with the book: "Is she going to be okay?  Will she get well?"  In Sydney Taylor's text, the mother dies, and the family goes to live with their social worker.  Cyd felt that this would crush Rebekah, talked it over with her husband, and had the mom get well and go to live with the social worker with the rest of the family.

As we talked, Cyd and I both felt mixed about this -- when is it time to reveal the harsh truths  that are part of life, and when is it still time to protect your child from what she will inevitably learn later?

I feel like this is a question we keep coming back to, and that there's no one good answer.

Love, Annie

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I wonder if I am introducing books to my children too early, something I talk about here: http://eveninaustraliakidlit.blogspot.com/2011/07/together-or-alone.html.

    In principle, I'm against selective editing; in practice, I have done it too. It's easier to do so when the incident in the book is minor (such as the death of Tib's sibling in Betsy-Tacy, altho I did not edit that out when I read it) than of Guido's mother in All-of-a-Kind Family, which is a major part of the plot.

    Funnily enough, we are reading the All-of-a-Kind Family series for the second time, at my 6-year-old's request and are also almost up to the point where Guido's mother dies. I read it as written the first time so of course will do so again this time.

    The bottom line is that you have to know your audience.

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