Today, I took part in a workshop with children’s author Kate de Goldi, during readers and writers week at Founders Park. This event was part of the Nelson Arts Festival program. It gave me a lovely warm feeling to see so many readers and writers and literary types, lunching, learning and listening all around the park. It feels good to be living in Nelson when we have treats like this bestowed upon us.
Kate de Goldi writes for children and young adults, and the workshop focused on getting us to see through a child’s eyes. This is a useful approach to take for all fiction, and its a good way to approach many aspects of life. Looking at something as if for the first time, especially something you take for granted, like your hand, for example, can be enlightening and even mind-blowing. In their innocence children can make some very profound statements about life, which are so sharp and pure that they shine in the more gloomy and muddy world of grown ups. I particularly love this page from a book called I’ll Be You and You Be Me by Maria Popova and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. The book was first published in 1952, long before Where the Wild Things Are, but Sendak’s illustrations are no less delightful.
Kate read from several vintage children’s books from the 1950’s onwards, and I was reminded of how much less patronising children’s authors were back then. In the days before everything became way too politically correct, children’s literature was a far more interesting and exciting place. When my children were young, I read them vintage books and found some new favourites of my own in the process. I found most modern books too icky for words. They would get very upset when I refused to read them books with titles like Bunny in the Bathroom because I could not bear the bad writing, but it certainly hastened the process of their learning to read themselves! I am happy to say that all of my kids now write, have great imaginations and cannot stand bad writing. Sometimes you just have to be cruel to be kind.
I hope that things will start to turn around in the world of children’s literature and people will realise that all this PC stuff is probably doing more harm than good. This is especially true for kids, who only learn prejudice and judgement from adults. Until then, I shall stick to reading the older books, and I will soon have plenty of chances, with a very unexpected new generation about to bless our family!
I will leave you with a favourite book of ours, written in 1912 :)
There is a great post here about this book, which shows many of the covers, both good and bad over the years.