Sunday, 11 December 2011

Melrose and Croc, Together at Christmas by Emma Chichester Clark

Something I have noticed over the many years of reading bedtime stories, is there are things in stories that kids just accept. Like the fact that a dog and a crocodile might live, seemingly without anyone blinking an eyelid, amongst the humans of a large, somewhat faceless city. And that the crocodile might be really, really sad because he's missed Father Christmas at the department store, as he's got the wrong week. Although I have to admit that, though I am far from being a child, I was choked at the bit where he wants to cry, but doesn't want people to see him, and castigates himself for "always getting everything wrong".

Anyway, help is at hand, because Melrose (the dog) is also sad, because although he is clearly very wealthy, he has no-one to share Christmas with. He is alone and friendless. Inevitably they meet (whilst iceskating) and spend Christmas together. Neither C nor A asked the following questions:
  • Croc seems quite young - where are his parents?
  • Melrose has only just arrived at his apartment - where else does he live?
  • How come Melrose has two single beds in his bedroom?
  • How come he is happy to give one up to a total stranger?
  • Why aren't Croc's nearest and dearest concerned about a) his whereabouts or b) his wellbeing on Christmas day?

None of these things actually matter, of course. It's a wonderful, feel-good story. But there are serious narrative gaps for the adult reader. These gaps may bother, or be expressed by kids too, just not my kids. This *may* have something to do with the fact that, generally, when they want to ask a question about a bedtime story, they get "BE QUIET, I AM READING!" as a response. Given that I answer and ask questions about stories for a living, I should probably address this serious weakness in my bedtime-story-reading technique. In fairness to me, I am much more open and receptive to questions when it is not a) bedtime or b) near enough to Christmas that the pre-Christmas hysteria which afflicts all children, and their parents, has well and truly set in.

1 comment:

  1. I did see a study recently claiming that children mind narrative gaps less than adults, but I can't remember where. That will bug me...