Anna Clare McDuff
amcduff at math.sunysb.edu
Tue Apr 29 06:55:42 EDT 2003
Hi everyone, I woke up this morning finding I've got one more
thing I really want to say on the issue of children's books, childhood
trauma, learning to deal with big emotions and scary events, and Diana
Wynne Jones. I'd better get cracking & finish it before morning is over!
There's a dark heart to many of DWJ's children's books. Many of
the characters have been neglected or abused or ill-parented or betrayed
or otherwise mistreated, and they know real suffering from bitter personal
experience. DWJ presents these traumas, and the consequences of these
traumas, within the safe context of a children's book, so the characters
are not seen to be overwhelmed or destroyed by these experiences as they
might well be in an adult's book or real life, but rather they are shown
as learning how to survive them. I think this can be enormously helpful to
a damaged child with no safe adults to turn to (and also to children
learning to cope with less severe miseries!), just to see first that other
good children suffer too, and it is not just them and they have not been
singled out because they are bad, and secondly, the all-important
possibility of survival. I was really interested to read on the official
DWJ website an interview with her where she says that she based at least
some of the trials of Christopher Chant on the real struggles of a boy she
knew, who sadly didn't survive them. It's here:
But in her book he lives, and not only survives, he grows up to
become the great Chrestomanci. The authenticity of his pain is there, but
it is held in place and made safe and thus children see that one *can*
learn to cope with these feelings and events, that, terrifying and hard to
cope with though they are, they don't necessarily spell doom. And all of
this in a safe, fun story full of laughter and wild imagination and joy.
Diana Wynne Jones, I salute you!
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