Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reading Jacqueline Wilson over my daughter's shoulder... the doctor's office, no less.

It may not have been as enlightening an experience as Reading Lolita in Tehran but I've come to realize the enduring power of the 2005-07 children's laureate's prose.

When my daughter first started consuming Wilson's novels at the tender age of seven, and at a very impressive rate too, I was not overly enthused. Wilson has a style that appeals straightaway to children — one wonders if she's a wise, sophisticated child trapped in the body of a middle-aged woman — and her focus is invariably on the tough choices children must make, told with a unique sense of humour which appeals to children and adults alike. Her characters range from orphaned children in foster homes, to children negatively impacted by divorce, poverty, abuse and neglect. I remember wondering if we might ever encounter a well-adjusted child in one of Wilson's books, and reminding the one in my custody that not every kid in the world belongs to a disaffected family. Of course, for a child in a stable environment, chaos is just too attractive a setting to give up.

Now that my daughter is ten, books have become conversation pieces. Now we can easily discuss why characters behave as they do. Ask ourselves what we might do in a character's shoes. How we might behave in similar circumstances. It is great fun, in fact. Of course, I may not think so later when the books she brings home involve drug abuse, sex, murder.

I suppose I should gird myself now!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never heard of Wilson's books, but I must give them a read.

Eva, you're an absolute gold mine when it comes to finding interesting new authors.

Will add further comments as soon as I can further prise my eyes open and wake up my brain...afraid I stayed up a little too late indulging in Season 6 of "Charmed" and Season 1 of "Remington Steele."

6:17 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

Remington Steele was Pierce Brosnan's heyday. He didn't quite cut it as Bond, in my opinion.

6:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think he was better as the love interest in Mrs. Doubtfire--it was Mrs. Doubtfire, wasn't it?

He makes such a yummy Remington. Both he and Stephanie Zimbalist(?) did an amzaing job of taking the writer's material and bringing the characters to life.

8:14 pm  
Blogger India said...

I have mixed feelings from a parental point of view, too Eva. It all stems back to the time when my daughter laid aside a JW offering with a wistful sigh and said 'I wish I lived in a children's home...'

At that stage she just couldn't see past the surface of the story, and I guess it's to JW's great credit that she creates characters that kids empathise with to the extent that they feel like they'd forgo their families to be like them!! However, your point is a good one-- a few years down the line a more sophisticated reading might yield a different, more useful perspective.

9:35 am  
Blogger Eva said...

I think that's why young adult fiction interests get so excited and inspired by the books they read, and as a writer you have a chance to make a difference. Wilson is truly adept if she can make our kids long for a foster home, for pity's sake!

Brown, don't talk to me anymore about Remington Steele. Tom Selleck is also off the table.

Actually, come to think of it, where did all those great crime dramas go starring characters half in love with each other? They were great, and the chemistry was the thing that drew us back week after week. I'm thinking of Hart to Hart, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and particularly Moonlighting.

Oops, we're back to Bruce Willis again.

7:05 pm  
Anonymous Sharon J said...

One of my favourite books is "The Illustrated Mum". My daughter and I read it when she was about 12 and I was captivated. As you said, not all children are blessed with a stable family and if JW's books help just one child understand another then they'll have been worthwhile.

1:24 pm  

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