Friday, April 2, 2010

Darkly Delicious

“Sometimes his (Roald Dahl's) work was a little too strong for grown-ups. It was scary and messy, but children understood that this was only because lots of adults were not very nice themselves, beastly even.” --Yorkshire Post

My favorite author growing up (well one of my many favorites) was Roald Dahl. I read his books over and over again (and still do!). Two of my favorites were FANTASTIC MR. FOX and THE WITCHES (JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is a close third). The element of his books that I adored was the dark, morbid, sometimes violent things that happened to the characters. Mr. Fox get's his tail shot off as his family faces starvation while the orphan boy in THE WITCHES is turned into a mouse and nearly stomped to death by witches.

Kids love the macabre, the horror of fearsome things -- things that happen to characters in books. And these books sell really well, beginning from the Grimm Fairy tales to Neil Gaiman's fantastically scary books like CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. Horror has always become integral to children’s fiction, and it seems to have intensified -- In case you hadn't noticed, there's a big streak of the darkly supernatural running through a lot of children's fiction these days. Ghosts, vampires and zombies are a recurring motif. There are alternative universes, resplendent with witches, demons, evil fairies and a growing number of fallen angels.

Such books allow children to explore the fears in a sort of safe, confined way. That’s perhaps why post apocalyptical fiction is taking off in a big way. It’s reflective of the current mood around the world -- of financial meltdowns, economic troubles, environmental disasters and social unrest. Kids are reaching for books that mirror their darker moods, and perhaps fiction can teach kids how to survive in the real world

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