Friday, October 9, 2009

Kinder, Gentler Kids' Stories

Kid 4, home from Kindergarten, has just finished reading me a story (we call this homework). He read the library book he checked out from school. It's "3 Little Pigs" - a version from the early 70s. He's reading along, and here comes the wolf to the first little pig. He huffs, puffs, blows and ... eats the pig up.

Kid 4's eyes widen, his voice softens in wonder, and he asks, with half a grin, "Did you hear that. Mom? He ate the pig. I bet I know what's going to happen next!" He was terribly entertained by this more grisly version. Every page brought that half-scandalized, half-amused face, along with that adorable "I bet I can guess..."

Something has happened (and I am generally for it) to soften our little kids' stories. We feed our kids fairy tales and fables and legends, but the early versions (like Brothers Grimm) are beastly. Witches dance themselves to death in hot iron shoes. Mermaids turn to sea-foam. Princes' eyes are gouged out by rogue brambles. There is wholesale death and destruction on every page.

This is children's literature? These are the stories we read them... before they sleep? I am glad and grateful for the softening of kids' stories. I even prefer the cheesy Disney versions of the classic tales, because they have songs. And we all know how I feel about songs. Yay. Not that I think we have to shelter our kids from all issues. There are things they should feel curious about, and there's no safer place to explore that curiosity than in a book. But. But. I choose to keep them as young as possible for as long as possible. So bring on the gentle books.


  1. See, I like the scary stuff best. My SIL sings the bunny in the woods song with her own new lyrics. Instead of the hunter shooting the bunny dead, the other bunnies bop it on the head. Lame.

  2. I think one of the most difficult aspects of being a parent these days is deciding when to expose our kids to what. And by extension, how quickly to guide them towards growing up. I don't think my five and three year old need to face the harsh realities of the world quite yet, and I revel in the gentle stories that inspire without frightenig.

  3. It's a fine line. I want their childhood to last as long as possible. I also want them to always know I'll give it to them straight. Maybe I'll just buy them a ruler instead. ;)

  4. They'll get many unsolicited doses of reality soon enough. Innocence is too rare and precious a commodity these days.

  5. My ten year old son still gets a bit squeamish with some stuff, especially violence or spooky things, so I'm for a general softening too. I know I prefer it in my personal reading, anyway. Grisly is not so good for me.

  6. It's so nice to find your blog. Especially blogs with such incredible writing.


If you want to say it, I want to hear it. Bring it on.