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Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Upsetting to Sensitive Children?

On a thread a post in her newsgroup on sff.net, SF/fantasy author Jennifer Busick discussed finding a troubling excerpt in a book called "Modern Montessori at Home," in a part about introducing kids to the classics. The book mentioned books such as Heidi and Kidnapped and Sherlock Holmes, as well as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days. But then, the book said, "Some of these titles may not appeal to your child." And then, stranger yet, she added, "Moreover, some children are very sensitive and science fiction stories are upsetting to them. I am somewhat hesitant to let my third or fourth grade students read science fiction material; however, I realize that some may not share my views."

Now is that weird or what? I could understand an educator warning that violence was upsetting to sensitive children, or that children might be upset by reading, let's say, yet another book where the hero's dog dies at the end. Or for that matter, stories with weird creatures might be upsetting to children. But science fiction? There is nothing inherently "upsetting" about science fiction -- except maybe to sensitive educators. ;-)

There's a lot of SF out there that doesn't have violence, doesn't have weird creatures, and doesn't kill off the little boy's dog at the end. Would she still think that was upsetting to sensitive children? Probably. Because I'll bet this isn't about sensitive children, this is about either literary snobbery or about the fact that science fiction freaks her out.

I'd rather have sensitive children reading age-appropriate SF novels than having them read something like Ouida's "The Dog of Flanders," where SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER both the dog and the boy die at the end after enduring horrendous poverty and rejection and never learning that the artist thought the boy was a great painter. :-( Don't get me wrong, I loved "The Dog of Flanders," but I really thought the ending sucked eggs. Couldn't she have at least let the poor boy live after all he went through? There's a reason most of the movie versions let him live. They don't want to get all those angry letters. (Ouida's been dead for a long time, so she doesn't have to worry about it.)

Note: The newsgroup thread linked above might not work over time as URLs change quickly on Webnews. Look for the "Upsetting Things" thread. Some of the posts may have disappeared from the server already.
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