Background artiste from 'Better than Stars'

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

How wild are today's children's books?

Where the Wild Things Are

Great article here about the legendary author Maurice Sendak, whose book Where the Wild Things Are is an absolute classic of scary kids' stuff. As he says - ironically I assume -

"You mustn't scare parents. And I think with my books, I managed to scare parents."

I'd like to counter with Neil Gaiman's Coraline, one of the scariest books for adults or children I have ever read. I heard him tell the story that's well known now, about how he and his publisher (or agent?) were unsure whether it was too frightening to publish, so a child test-read it for them. She said it didn't scare her, but has since confessed that it did, but she knew that if she told anyone she'd never get to read the end. Nuff said.

You don't get much scarier than the average folk tale (Red Riding Hood, for instance; and the original version of Cinderella in which the ugly sisters cut off bits of their feet to try and get them into the slippers. No-one noticed until they started dripping blood.) Surely the point is that stories give the opportunity to confront the fear in a safe place.

Do you think children should be protected from frightening books? Or can you think of other contemporary children's novels that are as edgy and dark as Sendak's and Gaiman's?

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