[The New Child]7:30 AM
Most of my acquaintance with this child comes from reading American Girl books (which are typical of fiction for children which is neither twaddle nor literary) and children’s mysteries. The New Child embraces modern thought that the next generation is somehow wiser than their older generations.
To this end some common trends can be seen:
1. Children are portrayed as more tolerant and adults (parents especially) more cold.
2. Children are active in social reform and bringing on the climax; adults are more passive and complacent and prone to giving up.
3. The climax involves solely children, usually after disobeying strict orders not to act.
4. Children are the heroes in the end, and when confronted with disobedience or lack of prudence, point out the adults’ mistakes.
5. The character development of the children is akin to autonomy and self-actualization; the adults’ is tolerance.
A common thread in children’s books where mystery, social justice or adventure is central runs along the lines of this: Children fail to spark adult help or interest or lose it soon afterwards. They take matters into their own hands. Parents and authority figures are not consulted. If they are, they (usually) “absolutely forbid” the children from doing anything risky. Children receive it sullenly, not daring to argue. When it’s time for the risky action, children blatantly disobey or justify their disobedience. Children save the day. Their disobedience is excused in light of their heroism.
This child makes up the bulk of main characters in children’s fiction today, and that plot is present in some form or another. The reason is because children want to read about children doing interesting, heroic things—perfectly natural. Yet those fictional children as well as those fans know very well that adults and authority figures play a very big part in children’s lives. We can’t have all stories about homeless orphans. Therefore, almost all plots nowadays involve disobedience, for that is almost the only conceivable way for a child to skirt protection and take on the role of hero.
Much like Ms. Feminist empowers girls over boys, the New Child empowers children to shirk parental authority and doubt the tradition of morals of previous generations. There are some notable books that involve children, excitement and obedience; and there are some interesting literary selections that avoid the problem altogether (The Chronicles of Narnia). To some extent, almost all children’s fiction will contain disobedience and conflicts with previous generations: those are central problems in children’s and young adults’ lives. But do be very discerning, especially for younger children. A diet of anti-parent involvement builds a foundation of rebellion.
Some books containing the New Child:
• all the American Girl books
• Because of Winn-Dixie
• Junie B. Jones series
Books that avoid or constructively address this:
• Magic Tree House series
• The Boxcar Children series
• Little House of the Prairie series
• Elsie Dinsmore series
• Kathleen McKenzie series
• books by Roald Dahl
• books by Roald Dahl