karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

How sad should a kids' book be?

I recently read Kate DiCamillo's "kid's book" The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane on my Kindle.  It's a wonderful story! DiCamillo can make you care about a character whether that character is a little girl, a hobo, an old woman, or a (mostly) china rabbit. I read the book in one sitting (it is short compared to a grownup novel), because I was so pulled into the story. It was, for most of it, an incredibly sad story, made all the more heartbreaking because DiCamillo writes so well. The ending was mostly upbeat, but did not provide happiness for the secondary charaters, only for the protagonist.

The illustrations, by the way, are stunning. The gray-scale drawings by Bagram Ibatoulline translated beautifully to the Kindle verion. Except for the color cover, I didn't feel the print book had any advantage as far as illustrations. 

DiCamillo has the such a deft touch, I could see where she was stacking the deck in the story, but at the same time, she dealt the cards with such skill I didn't care. Since the protagonist is a child's toy, she had to make a choice how far into spec fic territory she would go; she doesn't pull a Toy Story.  Edward the rabbit cannot move even a tiny bit. He can speak to dolls but not to humans, which means he says very little during the story. We hear his thoughts but not him speaking as he gradually learns how to love.

I noticed that the book had a high rating but still had a fair number of low-star reviews:

342 Reviews
5 star:  (268)
4 star:  (34)
3 star:  (14)
2 star:  (12)
1 star:  (14)
When you look at the one and two-star reviews, it becomes apparent that what bothered those readers was not the writing, which they pretty much admit was excellent, but the grim nature of the story line. Those reviewers didn't think the book was appropriate for children. I gave the book five stars, but I did state that I would never give this book to very young children. The example I used was Old Yeller. I watched that movie exactly once, when I was about eight or so, and I never wanted to see it again. I never let anyone bring it into my house because it was so incredibly sad I didn't want my kids to see it. What I said in my Amaxzon review was, if you think your kid could watch Old Yeller wihtout sobbing his heart out, then this book would be okay. 

What about you? Would you give a book aimed at children (The Book List review says second to sixth grade) to an 8-year-old if the book was as sad as Old Yeller?

Poll #1774738 Sad Books and Kids

Would you give a really sad book to a kid?

no, never!
only to a child older than 10
only to a child older than 12
it depends entirely on the kid
of course; children should not be spared from sadness
something else I will put into a comment



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