My daughter has—or had—a blanket that’s fashioned like a mermaid’s tail; you slide yourself inside it (if you are child-sized) and wear / are covered by it. It is brightly coloured and has a forked caudal fin at the end. But it is no longer wanted, has been put away with other ‘childish’ things. There is less room for cuddly toy animals and none at all for dolls.
And what of reading matter? Picture books were the first to go. Now a fresh slew of books is also making its way to the charity shop (thrift store). Into the box go Adam Blade’s Beast Quest stories; Chris Riddell’s Ottoline stories, she who once so delighted with her talking menagerie; Andrew Cope’s sleuthing pet Spy Dog takes a final woof; Gillian Shields’s Misty swims back to Coral Kingdom, along with a host of other mythical friends and chatty wildlife.
And away go the ‘classic’ children’s books that I bought for her, remembered from my own childhood—the pre-war rural simplicity of Milly Molly Mandy; the trials of Mildred at Miss Cackle’s Academy in Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch; self-possessed Polly and her egotistical companion in Catherine Storr’ Polly and the Woolf; Wilbur and Charlotte of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, the magical charm of Tove Jansson’s Moomins… And so many more.
So goodbye mermaids, goblins, unicorns, fairies, dragons, witches, princes and princesses of faraway lands. Farewell then entire families of cute talking animals who teach your saucer-eyed cubs, kittens, fawns, your goslings and lambs such sound morals, introducing them to the daily realities and risks of the world, teaching them manners and respect. Your pink and purple glitter, your fabled wonders and simple lessons are not sought any longer. It’s even time for a send-off for the linguistic pinwheels of Roald Dahl, his witches, magical medicine, and the ultimate child’s dream of owning a chocolate factory—and this on Roald Dahl Day in UK, when I no longer have to find a character outfit for my daughter to dress up in.
In their place are books that deal with pre-teen ‘issues’ and have new lessons to impart, about the harder realities of a wider world –Jacqueline Wilson’s books, with their themes of divorce and single parent families, bullying, and bereavement; R.J. Palacio’s Wonder on the challenges of being different and fitting in; The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne’s tale of a concentration camp seen through the eyes of eight-year-old boys (a book being covered at school).
Don’t get me wrong, these are great books. There is so much choice for pre-teens and teens now… It’s just a little sad, like when they stop believing in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy.