Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Connecting with stories

“Every book is a clue about life… That’s how stories are connected. You bring them to life when you read them” David Whitehouse, The Mobile Library (Picador).

Alan Sillitoe’s Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Harper Collins) had a profound influence on me when I read it in my early teens. Not only because as child I had lived in England of the period, but also, because the Australian private school I attended forced me to run my non preferred distance in athletic events because the school would gain more points.

While discussing strong redemptive stories, someone, probably mischievously suggested I read Jeff Kinney’s The Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Puffin). At the same time, I am reading Walter Mischel’s The Marshmallow Test (Bantam). Not a good combination.

I am told “reluctant readers” “love” The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. My question is, in this narcissistic age, does this sort book do more harm than possible good? The character is so self-obsessed that to describe him as clinically narcissistic would not be extreme. If this character was real, he would become an evil adult. Some things are so tragic that they are never funny.

Seeing yourself reflected in stories can allow you to be become more comfortable with who you are. Sometimes, as Mischel points out, you should not be.

And for those who want Australian (and actually humorous) alternatives to Wimpy Kid, may I suggest you start with Michael Gerard Bauer, Tristan Bancks, Anh Do and Oliver Phommavanh?

Richard Pickup – reader, runner, former librarian.

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