a little east of reality

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

stronger than you think

I love these two print ads that the Kids Helpline has been running for a while. I've been meaning to post a photo of them for ages, but I had to find my card reader. Well here they are:

Click to see the poster larger. The slogan in the yellow box reads "You're stronger than you think." What a brilliant way (visually) to immediately deliver that message.

I'm posting them now for another reason. Neil Gaiman has won himself a Newbery for The Graveyard Book. I love this book (and I highly recommend listening to Neil read it on the audiobook) but the book being entertaining isn't the reason I'm glad it won this particular award.

I think the world is often a harsh place, especially for children. I sometimes feel like my life has been hard (woe is me), but the truth is that I never had to deal with even a small part of the truly terrible challenges that some children face growing up. I think those Helpline ads are amazing, because they're not just about helping kids understand that they are strong, but also that they are strong enough to ask for help when they need it and to deal with the fallout of doing so.

I respect the fact that Neil's children's books are centred around strong, curious, resourceful children who fear things that are worth fearing but are not defeated by those fears. Sometimes they rely on the strength of trustworthy adults. Sometimes that option is not open to them and they have to find the strength within themselves to move forward without that safety net. And Bod (The Graveyard Book), Coraline (Coraline), and Lucy (Wolves in the Walls (a picture book)) all face formidable foes ~ three dimensional villians with real power, acting out of genuine malice and/or evil design (okay the wolves are just wolves).

The 'Other Mother' in Coraline is so creepy (you'll never look at black buttons the same way again) and Bod's family have just been murdered when The Graveyard Book opens. I found it interesting when Neil commented that adults see Coraline as a horror story, whereas children tend to see it as an adventure. I'm sure the same is true of the Newbery winner. Just as well, or these would be the best children's books that children would never get to read, because they'd be too scary!

I think his books empower children and I like that Neil doesn't presume to talk down to his audience just because they are children. And yes, I know he isn't the first author to write stories about brave children or scary villians, but the deceptive simplicity of the language (remember the way it felt the first time you read The Alchemist?) ~ the way the words lend themselves to being read out loud ~ the balance between humour and intrigue and drama ~ as well as the strong storylines, all come together to create delightful reading. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

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