“…For it has no virtue that we know of, save perhaps to sweeten a fouled air, or to drive away some passing heaviness.”

children’s fiction

Filed under: Journal — February 3, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

Paddy’s Kindle broke just a couple of days before the warranty ran out, while we were in Southern California.  Amazon was very good about it — sent a new device overnight, so it would arrive before we left again.

Though my family often refers to Common Sense Media to find out more about movies and games we are interested in, I just realized you can also use it to find newer books one might want to read or give to the kids to read.   You can filter by age and sort by things like highest to lowest ratings, topic, etc.  Of course, it doesn’t substitute for one’s own discretion, since the reviewers’ standards are not always the same as mine, but it makes a good starter point for finding out what is out there.

After I read the review of The Time Cat, which all my kids seem to enjoy despite its episodic plot and occasional clunky moments,  Paddy and I had a discussion on “it was all a dream” type endings in which he referenced Through the Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland.   This is like the treasure at the end of the rainbow in the homeschooling world, to me, when I see the kids making connections across books and taking their part in meaningful literary discussions.  Such discussions lead so easily into philosophical, moral and religious topics.

I went to confession yesterday with two of my grown kids, and had deep conversations with another two grown kids.     This makes me reflect on how one tends to focus on negatives and issues rather than on good things, and why that is.    I think it’s because the worrisome things need attention, while the good things can take care of themselves, and often are better left that way.    One would not want to become complacent or arrogant.   However, when one is easily discouraged, isn’t it somewhat risky to treat oneself as an ever-disappointing child?    But perhaps that’s the wrong way to think about it.     If I am teaching myself some new skill (much less emotion-laden for me than moral issues) I notice where I go wrong and try to correct it, but in a general atmosphere of benevolence and progression.    If I started berating myself, I would immediately want to drop what I was learning to do, or if I did continue doing the new thing, I would be pushing myself through it, as indeed I often am with any program of personal improvement.

Yet with the spiritual life, one can’t seem to avoid that kind of personal berating.    St Francis de Sales mentions that it is better not to do this, that when you stir up the pool too violently it makes it very difficult to settle it back down again.   Yet, when I go wrong, surely it is a very personal betrayal, so it is natural to feel shame and remorse, which are inevitably violent reactions.

I suppose the answer lies in the idea of love, which is something I have been thinking about a lot recently.     Love is analogous to the sort of benevolence I feel towards myself when doing something new and difficult in the area of achievement.     Love and trust, because I have to trust that I am loved better than I could love.    In that context, my failings are more accidental, less a direct wound and more like the inevitable little semi-inadvertent failings in a close relationship.

Oh dear, this part isn’t much about homeschooling at all.

We watched Hotel Transylvania yesterday — sort of silly, a combination of say, Nightmare before Christmas and Despicable Me, with a bit of bathroom humor.  Cute enough though.      I could imagine a case being made that this Hollywood trend of making bad guys look like the good guys is a morally confusing one.   But I can’t help noticing that almost all children’s’ fiction, back to the 18th century when the genre first came into being, tends to be subversive that way.  Jack the Giant Killer is no role model, and neither is Winnie the Pooh.  And let’s not even talk about the inimitable Mr Toad.    Or Peter Pan!      I just went to Wikipedia to check and yes, though primers and the like go back to medieval times and didactic or improving tales back to the 18th century, what we nowadays call “children’s literature”  pretty much got its start with Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, Swiss Family Robinson, and Heidi.    Apparently we largely have Rousseau to thank for most of children’s lit, though one usually doesn’t see that added to the list of his crimes.

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