Monday, October 11, 2010

Death in Children's Books:

When I sit in the enormous hot tub at the Fitness Center, I like to read. The incipient moisture will destroy any book, so my preference is to read paperback books that I obtained for free. Recently, from a box lying by the sidewalk near our home, I collected a batch of children's books aimed at the 9-to-14 set. I rarely read children's books, but these fit my hot tub requirements, and they were all written by prize-winning authors.

The first book I read was the highly aclaimed Bridge to Terabithia. This emotionally wrenching book features a horrible death. One comes away from it feeling deeply moved, hoping that the hero will grow up all right, and wondering why in the world the author had to work that awful death into the book.

The second book from this batch was framed by the deaths of the hero's father, grandfather, and other relatives.

The third book (which I'm now reading) is about a boy who is visited by many ghosts after his father dies.

At this point, I asked myself: do you have to write about death to be a fine author of children's books?

But there have to be other explanations. I'm not an expert on children's book authors, but perhaps there are lots of fine ones in which people close to the main characters don't die. So I got a new idea: the person who threw this collection of books away had carefully collected children's books that feature death.

And then I got a better idea, and I think this is the right one: the person who threw these books away was culling them out of a collection of children's books, getting rid of the gruesome ones.

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