Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fantasy Anyone?

I recently reread The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. As I was searching for info about the book, I found an interview he gave in 2001, and he said something very interesting:

“[Publishers] also thought that fantasy was very bad for children because it disoriented them…[they] told me that they had great misgivings because they thought that the book was too far beyond children.”

This made me laugh out loud. The Phantom Tollbooth was published in 1961, and it amazes me how much the thinking has changed. I would guess that most children’s books contain some aspect of fantasy.

Here is why I think fantasy is good for children:

  • Fantasy teaches morals without preaching
  • Fantasy expands the imagination
  • Fantasy exposes children to symbolism (and you know I like symbolism :)
  • Fantasy simplifies hard concepts
  • Fantasy is entertaining and makes kids want to read
  • Fantasy provides a much needed escape

I remember seeing news reports about people burning Harry Potter books in an effort to protect their kids from witchcraft and evil. And while I respect everyone’s choice to raise their kids how they want, this burning of books made me sad. I think of all the good that can come from fantasy books, but sometimes you must look past the fantastic and the odd—to the essence of the story.

I also feel very strongly about talking though stories with your kids. Help them process the things they read :) Hip Hip Hooray for fantasy!



Miranda Hardy said...

I love fantasy! It's amazing how publishers have changed their tune since then.

Ruth Josse said...

It cracks me up that they thought it was far beyond kid's understanding. Hello, kids are way smarter than us! I think fantasy also helps expand the imagination of adults:)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I wonder if publishers have a clue what the people want to read, LOL. It is interesting to see the changes in attitudes.

I love fantasy. It's is one of my children's favorite genres.

Angie Cothran said...

Miranda - Sometimes publishers get it wrong.

Ruth - Amen! Kids are way smarter.

Raelyn - My kids too.

Kim said...

I love your list of reasons why fantasy is good for children - I think of my favorite fantasy books from my childhood - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - they had such depth, but were accessible for young minds :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

I love fantasy, and my kiddos do as well. I agree with all your points. And, I love talking through a book with my son. He says the most insightful things sometimes. Their minds really do allow them to see things, that adults are sometimes blind to. Thanks for the post.

E.R. King said...

I don't write fantasy but I enjoy reading it. I agree that it's an excellent way to teach a moral without banging someone over the head with it.

Abby said...

That is so crazy! Personally, I am glad things have changed so much. I LOVE fantasy - for all the reasons you mentioned and more! It is wonderful. It makes us use our imaginations and think outside the box!

My niece couldn't read Harry Potter forever. Her mom said they were too dark. Then when she finally got to read them (and their mom too) they realized how they were NOT that way. She loves them.

3 cheers for fantasy!

Tara Tyler said...

fantasy is wonderful! great commentary!
and i think anyone who thinks burning books is beneficial to anyone (except a stranded cold person) is living in a fantasy world =)

Angie Cothran said...

Kim - Oh, I LOVE C.S. Lewis. His is a chidren's fantasy pioneer.

Jenny - Kids pick up on so much more than we think they do.

Emily - I don't write it either, but it is one of my favorites to read.

Abby - I find that most people who dis HP have never read it. 3 cheers for fantasy!

Melissa Sarno said...

It's funny, I don't read much fantasy at all (except for Harry Potter) but I see so much value in the genre. I don't believe in burning or banning books at all no matter what your beliefs. I think a person should read what he/she believes is right and let others choose for themselves :)

Kelley said...

Oh, I totally remember the Harry Potter = witchcraft rants back then. Craziness. If someone wants to protect their kids they should, but to burn/ban the text for everyone? Uh no.

Angie Cothran said...

Tara - LOL!

Melissa - I totally agree. The problem with censorship is that what you feel is appropriate someone else feels is poison.

Kelley - I have a friend who feels HP is not for her, but she doesn't judge me for loving least I don't think so :)

Claire Robyns said...

I'm just pleased we've moved beyond being dictated to by a handful of people, it didn't used to be just the publishers either :) Fantasy is food for the imagination and soul, it's the building block on which children grow.
I love (and agree) with all the things you pointed out

Melanie Jacobson said...

We just listened to The Phantom Toll Booth on a road trip. It totally charmed me.

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