The bluer side of children’s books

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I’ve recently finished reading My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher and it took me a full hour to pull myself back together. It was the perfect storm of a tear-jerker with loss, family separation, alcoholism and bullying thrown together. Granted, I have quite extreme reactions to sad books and films, but it made me wonder if it had that impact on me…how do the children that it’s intended for feel about it?

I keep being told that kids are more resilient than we give them credit for, and that it’s important for them to find out about the dark sides of the real world. I remember hearing a talk by Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company (a charity that offers support to vulnerable children) in which she said that the personal and social problems affecting many children are difficult to understand by their peers who haven’t experienced them. Perhaps that’s another argument for themes like divorce or the death of a parent to have a prominent place in children’s fiction?

I also recently read an article which said that every 22 minutes a child in Britain is bereaved of a parent – undoubtedly leaving them with a range of emotions that they never would have experienced before… In these situations potentially reading a book like A Monster Calls would make them realise that they’re not alone in having to go through this.

As for My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece, I would definitely recommend it. As well as being awfully sad, it’s a heart-warming story about friendship and family life. You may just need to keep the tissues within reach.

A list of top children’s tear-jerkers:

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
  2. A Monster Calls Patrick Ness
  3. The Illustrated Mum Jacqueline Wilson
  4. Skellig David Almond
  5. The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein
  6. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, Michael Rosen
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One thought on “The bluer side of children’s books

  1. Interesting post Ewa. Going to listen to a chat about this very subject at the weekend. There does seem to be a lot of ‘darkness’ in children’s lit nowadays but I think if children don’t want it they’ll soon let their parent’s know. I remember my niece refusing to watch The Little Mermaid when she was five, because the Sea Witch terrified her.

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