The below article has been republished here with permission from the author. Check out the original article here.
It’s a fiction book for children—what’s the worst that could happen? Let’s examine children’s fiction in today’s polarized world closely.
The world is on edge. Politicians, and society as a whole, are conferring their agendas on the people they are meant to serve, canceling those who disagree and causing what appears to be the worst divisiveness this country has experienced in generations.
You may think, “Okay, but surely this doesn’t pertain to writing children’s fiction.”
Oh, but it does.
This year, I wrote a silly – and what I intended to be a humorous – children’s story (inspired by my real-life pets’ personalities) about a cat that believes he’s a dog. Almost instantly, I received politicized reviews and feedback that questioned the political intent behind my story.
I pondered the feedback for a while; then, it dawned on me: The world is so enveloped in politics that when most readers pick up a book, they automatically, whether intentionally or not, think, “There’s got to be a hidden agenda here” or “What will this author attempt to push on me or my children?”
Unfortunately, most readers assume that authors are using their stories as a medium to advertise certain beliefs and cultural customs or to push a particular political agenda. Thus, authors are left thinking, “I must ensure to only write about beliefs that align with today’s views, or else my story will be publicly canceled and dragged through the mud.”
There’s also the insinuation that it’s best not to include any white lies, either. Are we really to believe that the effort of preserving someone’s feelings in certain situations is wrong? That’s the kind of “selfish” lying we shouldn’t teach children?
It seems that amidst the world’s polarization, we’ve forgotten that life is, ultimately, a balancing act—for adults and children alike. Sometimes, we lie to avoid hurting people, and the concept of appropriate white lies is an important lesson to learn in life.
So, should children’s book authors be concerned with what is politically correct or incorrect regarding the stories they wish to tell? I believe, above all, that authors should remember that children, at their core, want to have fun, laugh, be free, and act silly. They want to be entertained! It’s our job to present them with diverse opportunities to develop their imagination. And what better way than through the fun and silly pages of a good book?
Ideally, there should be a children’s book for everything and everyone. Some books teach valuable lessons like how to be kind to one another, while others teach essential skills like how to say hello in 100 languages or proper tea time etiquette. Other books are simply fun and allow kids to laugh and play around creatively, perhaps by meeting a talking tree toad that always shares a funny joke.
Our job as adults is to help children get lost in the wonders of words, wisdom, and wonderful illustrations. As adults, I would hope that we purposefully seek out stories for every desire and every need, and every subject so that we can enrich the lives of our children in every possible way.
My hope, as I journey further into the fascinating world of children’s fiction books, is that authors, myself included, and most importantly, readers, learn to separate children’s stories from the politics of the world. We have a responsibility to open children’s eyes to new people, places, and things and to help them see the wonders of what is possible in our imaginations! Above all else, we should strive to refrain from driving home our agendas in ways that don’t serve the children of the world.
Let the journey continue!
In Loving Memory Of
Sterling “Baby Sterlo” Hernandez
04/25/2017 – 09/05/2022
You will forever live through the pages of the book My cat brother, Sterling. A book others encouraged me to write, but you, my sweet Sterling, inspired me to write it. Through the pages, you will live on, allowing those who read it a glimpse of just how much joy, laughter, and silliness you brought into our home with your unique personality! Most importantly, you will forever live in the hearts of those that love you dearly—especially mine. I love you, Sterling, always and forever. We will never forget you, and we will forever miss you.