Thursday, November 25, 2004

Some people are good at being sad

I'm familiar with Michael Rosen's work by reputation — We're Going on a Bear Hunt is considered a children's classic — even if his books aren't to be found on the shelves in our home.

The Guardian offers a poignant sketch of the author on the publication of his latest work, Michael Rosen's Sad Book, which tells the story of Rosen's grief at the death of his 18-year-old son (from meningitis).

Illustrated by Quentin Blake, the cover feels... lonely.

It's all very sad. I suspect this book could be very helpful to children in experiencing grief and understanding death. I hope I never have reason to turn those pages.

This is the part where I go off on a weird tangent:
I don't really understand books like this. I wonder if they ever find their audience. First, I don't think we give kids enough credit for understanding the world around them and their relationship to it. Second, those kids whose parents would use such a book likely are in loving, nurturing environments and would have little need for such a book. Or the parents use the book to keep an emotional distance form their children, in which case the kids gonna need more than a little ol' book to make a difference. So who buys these books? Are they meant to hide in libraries, where sad children will stumble across them just when they need them to find some enlightenment?

A book like this, intended for an audience, if done poorly really would be better not published at all. I hope this one's as honest as it sounds.


Anonymous said...

I don't know... I would think the time to read a book like this is when it's NOT an issue, before you have to, as part of a child's education toward empathy. Because even if he's not facing grief, personally, it's important to understand that other people may be...

I dunno, I possibly have a weird perspective on this -- my sister died when I was two, and so I don't remember what it is to NOT realize what death and grieving are all about. Hm. Well, you've made me think about it, so that's a good blog post, eh? ;)


Pink Poppy said...

Hey Isabella! Thanks for coming to visit this morning. And I was going to say something similar to what Rachel said. Last year, there was a book that was on his required reading list that dealt with the death of a child's friend. Fictional, but definitely a "grieving book". So maybe it's a "preparedness" thing? I've never bought one, but would never say "never". Have a good one!

Isabella said...

That's a good point you both raise about preparedness — I guess I could see it read by children as a group in learning about the human condition. Something like that.

Like Rachel, my perspective is also skewed — my father died when I was 7. Death is a fact of life. You deal with it when you have to deal with it. I even remember being offended when I heard someone say "she's too young to understand." I don't think a book would've made any difference. But then, I had the good fortune of having a "normal" and loving family; I can't know what difference it might make in some children's lives.

There's been a few articles recently about the "depressing" books on kids' reading lists — maybe it makes them grow up too fast?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I doubt it would make them grow up too fast. Lots of kids come from backgrounds that are less than ideal and could probably benefit from not being encouraged to expect unrealistic scenarios, from understanding that not everyone lives in Brady-Bunch families.

Unfortunately, there are more things to grieve in a child's life than death sometimes and this is just a fact.

I would like my child to know in what ways he/she is priviliged and to learn empathy early.

My two cents' worth :-)

Isabella said...

Definitely, there's more to grieve than death in a child's life, but learning to cope, learning empathy and tolerance and all those good things, learning about life can be achieved in subtler, more creative and entertaining ways than being forced (in the sense of a school required reading list) to read an after-school special — in fact, if adults do not proceed gently, it could have effects opposite of those intended. (For further thoughts and links see a previous post.)

I suspect Michael Rosen's book is quite good, actually, and I wouldn't be averse to reading it. But I can't believe that all books in this trend are worth reading.

While preparing our young ones for life, we should never neglect to allow them their childhood. They'll learn about reality anyway, and not necessarily from a book.

Anonymous said...

Sure. My point was, however, that some children face difficult realities already because they have less than ideal circumstances. In such instances, reading about such things is NOT a bad idea, reading "depressing" books might actually be therapeutic. Now, a child who has lived an "ideal" existence should definitely be encouraged to grow at his/her own pace. That's all I meant.