Contemporary versus classic books for children

Growing bookworks 2

I have read a lot of children’s books. Some I read to myself as a girl and others I read to my sons, nephews and nieces and the children who attended our local Sunday school, over the past sixteen years. Many of the books I have read over the past six teen years are contemporary fiction which is defined as a fictional book (events, settings, characters etc. described are not real) set in contemporary times (modern times).

A few examples of popular contemporary fiction book series for children I can think of are Horrid Henry written by Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross, Winnie the Witch written by Valerie Thomas and illustrated by Korky Paul and the Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus series written by Rick Riordan. All of these books share the common characteristic that they are set in our modern world and the main characters have access to television, email, cell phones and the internet.

 

Two common traits I have noticed with contemporary fiction books for children are that these books tend to be far more plot driven than classic children’s books and that there is often, but not always, a theme of disregard and even disrespect for authority figures.

The books I have mentioned above are the ones that I think deal with this growing concept of disrespect towards authority figures by youthful characters in books in an acceptable manner. Horrid Henry, for example, is a naughty pre-teen boy. His brother is his complete anti-thesis and many of the stories revolve around the tension and conflict between the two boys. In these stories, however, the parents always come out on top and Henry is always disciplined and made to toe the line.

Books that are more plot driven can be more appropriate for modern children than classic books which focus more on characterisation such as Little Women by Louise May Alcott and What Katy Did. Our children are used to the fast pace of television and computer games so if we want a book of compete with these other choices, it needs to keep their attention. Modern children also have shorter concentration spans due to modern electronic devices and do not want to read long flowery descriptions. I think the same can be said for many modern adult readers too. Short stories and novellas have become more popular due to time constraints and more available choices when it comes to relaxation. Many modern readers do not want to trawl through the lengthily descriptions included in books like Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Given everything I have said above, are classic books worthwhile for modern children, or even books written post World War II like Enid Blyton’s books?

Let us look at the definition of a classic book: “The classic that keeps on being read is the book whose situations and themes remain relevant over time—that miracle of interpretive openness that makes us feel as though certain stories, poems, and plays are written with us in mind.”

I group classic books in my mind into fairy tales and other classic books. Fairy tales spark the imagination and this is an important aspect of children’s development. In addition, fairy tales help children confront and overcome their fears, which are featured in these enduring stories and also, provide a lot of social messages about how to behave in order to achieve a good life outcome. Fairy tales also introduce children to the idea that life has pitfalls and things don’t always go the way you hope and want them to. They teach children to be resilient and enduring.

Classic books feature humans experiencing life and all it has to offer. The often contain thought-provoking socio-ethical situations such as I am David, which depicts the life of a boy on the run from a concentration camp. Classic books introduce children to history in an interesting and understandable way such as the Little House series of books which depict the pioneer life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family. As with fairy tales, classic books contain messages the teach children about perseverance to overcome injustice such as the Count of Monte Cristo. Classic books are also a challenge which stimulate the mind, which can only be a good thing.

What are your thoughts and experiences with contemporary and classic books for children?

About Robbie Cheadle

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Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  • Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  • Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  • Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  • Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


A children’s picture book literary tasting

Growing bookworks 2

This month on Writing to be Read, I thought it would be fun to do a children’s picture book literary tasting to give readers an opportunity to sample short extracts from some wonderful children’s picture books. Interesting toddlers and small children in books and the written word lays the foundation for future readers and there is nothing like a great picture book to entice them into the book world.

Imagine you are at a picnic and the snippets in this post are delicious and varied food items.

Fondant art picnic

The wonderful Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss’ delightful rhyming verse picture books are the perfect reading material for small children and beginner readers. There is a lot of benefit to the sound and word repetitions in these books which is comforting and confident enhancing to children in this age and learning bracket.

Dr Seuss also includes messages about friendship, environmental friendliness and sharing in his books which can’t go amiss.

I see his books as the hamburgers at the picnic.

Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Seuss)

And then I got mad.

I got terribly mad.

I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!

All you do is yap-yap and say, Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!

Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you

I intend to go on doing just what I do!

And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering on biggering

      and BIGGERING

                    and BIGGERING

                              and BIGGERING,

turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds

which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!

From The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. You can purchase all of Dr Seuss’ books here: Dr Seuss Amazon US

The creative Richard Scarry

Richard Scarry is an amazing artist and children’s book author. He is know for his brilliant artwork personification where pigs, dogs, hippos and other animals wear clothes and take the roles of humans in his fantasy world. His books are aimed at a variety of age groups from toddlers to young children and teach them about a variety of things such as their ABCs for the youngest age group to What do people do all day?, Cars and trucks and things that co and A day at the airport. My boys loved these books and listened to me read them over and over again.

Richard Scarry books are the French fries at the picnic.

Hardcover

“Ho! Ho! Ho! And who are you?” asks a 

great big fellow in red trousers. Mr Frumble

explains that he needs his skipickledoo

repaired so that he can get to the North Pole.

“Ho, ho, but you ARE at the North Pole!

I’m Santa Bear and these are all my helpers.”

Welcome!””

From The Night Before the Night Before Christmas! by Richard Scarry. You can buy all of Richard Scarry’s books here: Richard Scarry Amazon US

The artistic Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter wrote beautiful stories about the trails and tribulations of the small animals she had as pets and also studied during holidays to Scotland and the Lake District. The most famous of Beatrix Potter’s books is The Tale of Peter Rabbit. My personal favourites are The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, which features a hedgehog, and The Tale of Two Bad Mice, which features two naughty mice, Tom Thumb and his wife, Hunca Munca.

The Beatrix Potter books are the delicious cake at the picnic.

The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (Illustrated)

Hunca Munca tried every tin spoon in

turn; the fish was glued to the dish.

Then Tom Thumb lost his temper. He put

the ham in the middle of the floor, and hit it 

with the tongs and with the shovel – bang, bang,

smash, smash!

The ham flew all into pieces, for underneath the

shiny pain it was made of nothing but plaster!

From The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter. You can purchase all of Beatrix Potter’s books here: Beatrix Potter Amazon US

The fun Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul have teamed up to create the Winnie the Witch series of children’s picture books which feature a sweet and unconventional witch called Winnie and her sardonic cat named Wilbur. Winnie likes black and eats funny foods like batburghers, but Winnie has a heart of gold and is always trying to do nice things to impress and entertain the “little ordinaries” who attend the local primary school. Unfortunately, Winnie’s attempts to do conventional things always ends in disaster and Wilbur has to try to bail her out of her debacles. My son, Michael, and my two nephews loved these books and I read them many times to an attentive and fascinated audience. These books are more modern and include references to technology in the form of computers and mobile phones which appeals to modern children.

I see the Winnie the Witch books as the sweet and tempting cupcakes at the picnic.

Winnie turned around, and there behind her

was a great crowd of people. They were

running along the road towards her house.

***

They crowded into her garden

They took off their coats, their

hats, their boots, their gloves,

and their scarves.

***

They sat in the sunshine

They walked on Winnie’s flowers

They put orange peel on Winnie’s

grass. They paddled in Winnie’s pond.

From Winnie in Winter by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul. You can buy all their books here: Valerie Thomas Amazon US

I hope you have enjoyed this literary tasting. See you next month.

About Robbie Cheadle

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Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s Growing Bookworms segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


“Awesome Tales #10”: An awesome tribute to pulp fiction of old

Amazing Tales #10

You just don’t see a lot of pulp magazines anymore in the classic tradition from days of old, but Awesome Tales is a modern pulp magazine pulp fans will take delight in. If your a fan of the dazzling heroes and diabolical villians of the classic pulp traditions, Awesome Tales #10 takes you on a refreshing trip down memory lane with four masterfully written contemporary tales, by four different authors, told in classic pulp form and style.

“No Virtue in Patience”, by John L. French is a futuristic pulp story with tech gangs and computer generated card tournaments. A heist of the biggest solitaire game in town, with a proize of a solid gold deck of cards.

“No Patience for Fools” by Aaron Rosenberg offers a different perspective on the solitaire tournament of the previous story. Cleverly crafted to tell the same story from the opposite side of the law, it has a surprise ending, as well.

In “Broken Doll” by Quintin Peterson, tough guy bionic P.I. Luther Kane sets out to save a one-legged streetwalker named Gypsy, and maybe his own guilt ridden self, but he learns the classic lesson all P.I.s should know the hard way: never trust anyone.

“Give Them a Corpse Part 2” by Rich Harvey is the second part of a three part story featuring the Domino Lady, a classic masked superheroine, complete with crime fighting skills and secret identity, fights against the classic villians of The Black Legion. Like all good cloak and dagger crime fighting serials, this story easily stands alone.

Every one of the stories in Awesome Tales #10 are well-crafted and entertaining. They will satisfy hardcore pulp fans and maybe even earn the genre a few new fans. I give it five quills.

five-quills3


Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Should children read abridged classics?

Growing bookworks 2

There are many wonderful classic books available to people who are interested in reading them. I have recently re-read War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, both by H.G. Wells and also Dracula by Bram Stoker. I read these books in my early teens and, while I did enjoy them, I don’t remember appreciating any of the subtleties of the development of the characters in these books or the psychological and philosophical aspects either. This is because I did not have the life experience at that time to appreciate these concepts and their incredible appropriateness and cleverness.

I have never restricted or limited my children’s reading choices. This is because I believe that children can only experience and visualise the written world in the context of their own life experiences. If a child has never attended a funeral, they cannot visualise the white and haggard faces of the surviving family, smell the heavy and potent aroma of the funeral flowers or understand extreme expressions of grief such as throwing oneself onto a coffin as it is slowly lowered into the ground, in the same way someone who as actually witnessed such events could. They can read and appreciate the words but their ability to picture the detail is limited to their own visual experiences. This is not the case with television which supplies a ready-made visual to put the image into your mind regardless of your own experience. It is for this reason that I think that abridged classics are appropriate, and even ideal, for children.

Abridged classics expose children to the joys of great literature and enable them to appreciate their stories without struggling to understand words and concepts that are beyond their current reading and life abilities. In other words, abridged classics stimulate an interest in the storyline and characters while not burdening the child with all the deep emotion and psychology that is present in many classic books. If the child is excited by the story, there is a high chance he will revisit the book as an adult and read the full, unabridged version with greater understanding and appreciation.

If you are interested in purchasing the Classic Starts books, you can find them on Amazon US here: Classic Starts series

I bought all the Classic Starts books as well as a set of abridged Shakespearean plays and Chaucer’s stories for my son. My older son was mesmerised by certain stories such as The Phantom of the Opera, The Secret Garden and The Red Badge of Courage. I well remember him recalling these books with such fondness that a few years later, when he was about 13 years old, he read the unabridged versions of these books with great enthusiasm. He also went on to read a significant number of other classic books and represent South Africa as part of the St John’s College Prep team at the Kids Lit Quiz in New Zealand in 2016. I remember Gregory laughing aloud over the abridged versions of Canterbury Tales and The Taming of the Shrew. I do think these cultural experiences of English help set him up with a love of reading for life.

Reading abridged classics also allows children to access books that have been written in old English and are difficult for modern children [and adults] to read for that reason. These books allow us all access to humorous, dramatically and other situations from the past and allow us to learn more about our own history and path of evolution and change.

Twenty Shakespeare Children's Stories - The Complete 20 Books Boxed Collection: The Winters Take, Macbeth, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo ... and More (A Shakespeare Children's Story)
“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.”
From Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Imagine a never reading these great words!
If you are interested in purchasing William Shakespeare’s book for children, you will find them on Amazon US here: William Shakespeare for children

I believe there is a lot of benefit to be had from reading abridged classics to your child and letting them read them on their own. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s Growing Bookworms segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.