Sunday, 27 November 2011

What do you mean, Little House on the Prairie is boring?

"I don't think I really want another chapter of Little House on the Prairie, thanks Mummy. It's just that it's really boring." What? WHAT!? What have I bred that she could possibly think that Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic of bygone pioneer America is "really boring"!

I was about to launch into a rant about how back in my day there was no internet and we appreciated the finer things in life, like the aforementioned book, when two things crossed my mind. The Secret Garden and What Katie Did. Both books my Mum absolutely adored. Both books which I thought were, what modern children would call "well boring". I know my Mum was bitterly disappointed as I sighed and moaned my way through these classics. Classics I am sure they are, but my Mum learned a hard lesson through them - namely that your kids might not like the things that you think are amazing. They may have *gasp* tastes of their own! And, actually, that's OK. If your daughter does not appreciate the finer points of The Worst Witch, it may be inexplicable to you (how, HOW can she not love Mildred Hubble?), but it is OK, because she has loves of her own, worlds of her own to escape to, which are just as valid.

There was a supplement included in The Guardian a few weeks ago about reading with children. I was a bit cross that it seemed to be exclusively written by a woman in her 30s who probably was much like me, and used to fall down stairs and walk into lamp-posts because she had her nose in a book. That's OK - there's a place for that (well I like to think so, or this blog is somewhat redundant!) But it doesn't do much to inspire; to think about what our kids need or want to be reading. Jacqueline Wilson didn't exist when I was a child, but I know I would have loved her. Should I force A to plough the the complete works of Judy Blume, because she was my Jacqueline Wilson? Probably not. Should I offer her the opportunity to read them if she wishes? Of course! But let's not throw the baby of fantastic modern writing for kids away with the bathwater of nostalgia.

I might just try her with The Secret Garden and What Katy Did though - because perhaps A will see something in them that I did not and that her grandmother found all those years ago.


  1. Jacqueline Wilson definitely DID exist when you were a child. I read her (now out of print) 1980s novels while I was at primary school. Happy to lend you them if you like x

  2. Oh, I had no idea! I mean, obviously she existed, as I think she's in her 60s, isn't she? But she didn't exist as a presence in children's books in the way she does now. A has the Jacqueline Wilson magazine - there is a whole business empire built around it now! That said, I do really like the magazine, it is infinitely less inane than most of the girls' magazines available.

  3. Yeah, Tracy Beaker was the turning point, commercially. Before that her fiction was YA rather than tween (the register is more formal and a bit more literary but she uses very similar plots). The best ones are The Power of the Shade, and This Girl - both are on Amazon for a few pence second hand.

  4. Oooh, I'll have a look. I bought quite a few of them from charity shops when I was doing my training, and have had to hide a few from A, as if it says Jacqueline Wilson on it, she thinks it is OK for her to read, and some of them are definitely NOT aimed at her age group. Mind you, I was reading Danielle Steele at 9, and I turned out OK. Ish.