Children’s Literature

I was one of those painful children who was a VERY early reader. And I devoured books from at least the age of 3. Even books that my parents’ friends considered unsuitable … so, what was a problem about reading ‘Lolita’ when I was 10?

One of the delights of my childhood was our regular schedule: payday, we’d do dinner at Happy’s Restaurant in Garema Place. I’d then be allowed to choose a Puffin Book all by myself at Verity Hewitt’s Bookshop. Non-Friday night payday, we’d visit the local library, and I would have finished reading my two books by Saturday night. Throughout my late childhood and adult life, however, I have ALWAYS revisited my favourite children’s fiction, and each time re-reading has revealed different, sometimes surprising, nuances.

Which is why I was so delighted to read this from another WordPress blogger – Calmgrove:

For the readership the books were originally aimed at doubtless they were entertaining, but for all their superficial fantasy they also portrayed a reality — the threat of nuclear holocaust, the nature of authoritarian parenting, the evils of totalitarianism — that could upset any rose-tinted view that assumed that all was right with the world.

And that’s why it’s so important that children read, have access to books, to libraries, to classrooms where such fiction is held in esteem. For here, without the bitter pill Victorian novelists forced children to read, are deeply moral narratives. Here there may be crises to face and wicked antagonists popping out of the woodwork; but there won’t be the piety that accompanied too many tales from the 19th century, stories in which the protagonist suffered calamities and atrocities with a reverential quietude and passivity, accepting the fate that a noble sacrifice might offer.

No, as the 20th century proceeded the protagonist (other than the gung-ho British bulldog type who might show natives and the lower classes his superiority with feats of derring-do) would increasingly exhibit humanitarian values and a sense of compassion, combined with a bravery that wouldn’t require outstanding physical prowess or a privileged education. Nesbit’s children’s books are regarded as marking a sea-change from the piety of Victorian and Edwardian literature written to improve children to a more realist yet sympathetic fiction written with their innate sense of fairness in mind.

I generalise of course. But think of the classics that stand the test of time: in the main they are the ones that are based on moral outrage against injustice, war, deprivation, waste, greed, and so on. Whether the scenario is small-scale — family-based, perhaps, maybe in a school — or of epic proportions, stretching across continents, such narratives share the values of many traditional fairytales: standing up for what’s right, and recognising responsibilities.

In an era when most of our daily news stories concern the apparent success that arises from cheating, bullying, lying, exploitation and abuse, and when much contemporary adult fiction seems to end in tragedy or at the very least ambiguity, is it not important for all our sakes to counter that with alternatives? I don’t mean the saccharine endings of romcoms or the impossible triumph, against all the odds, of plucky outsiders over supervillains in the apocalyptic final reel; I’m thinking instead of the child hero who learns to do what is right because…

Well, just because.

My response – from my heart:

For me, children’s lit, fables, legends, etc., has always been about subtly teaching children how to deal with dangerous emotions, with adversity, and with despair. (One of the worst things I think my late unlamented mother-in-law did to my spouse was to refuse to read him – and refuse to let him read – ‘fairy tales’, because they weren’t “true”.)

The starkest example I’ve experienced about the value of children’s lit in this domain was the publication of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”.

That was back in 2003, at the height of the propaganda, gaslighting, and downright dishonesty about the “Coalition’s” purported and actual reasons for the invasion and – almost – destruction of Iraq.

– The intolerance of anyone who disagreed.
– The ill-treatment of anyone who disagreed.
– The calmunies directed towards anyone who disagreed.

And, as I read that book, I thought, “Yes, sounds SO like Bush (US), Blair (UK), and Howard (my Oz PM).” Lie after lie after lie, vilification of anyone disagreeing, and the intense desire to destroy anyone disagreeing with their vile stance.

It didn’t – quite – work then.

Now, however?

307 thoughts on “Children’s Literature

  1. Good morning Dawn Patrollers

    In quite a cutting contribution David Crowe says we’ve yet to see what Scott Morrison really stands for.
    Jenna Price looks into how to stop men killing their wives and children.
    The Australian Government has fallen into one that encourages divisiveness among its citizens rather than promoting unity, writes Grant Turner.,13613
    Domenic Powell reports that the chief executives of two of the nation’s largest retail employers have blamed incorrectly configured software as a key cause of staff underpayments, arguing this issue also often leads to businesses overpaying workers. I have a message for them. It works . . . you don’t!
    Katharine Murphy explains how Anthony Albanese has said Labor has to take the initiative in defending Australia against the dangers of climate change because the summer of catastrophe has highlighted our national vulnerability and because business and the states are now demanding national leadership.
    Alexandra Smith writes that Liberal and Labor ministers from NSW and Victoria are demanding the federal government release $1.6 billion in NDIS funding, saying that short changing people with disabilities should not be used to balance the federal budget.
    Shane Wright explains how a surprise lift in the jobless rate has raised expectations of an interest rate cut to strengthen the economy.
    Tim Pallas declares that it is now the states that are doing the heavy lifting on reform while Canberra retreats into its shell.
    John Kehoe writes that Australia’s domestic private economy last year went backwards for the first time since the 2008 global financial crisis and says fixing the slow economy is up to Canberra.
    Rightly, Tony Featherstone declares that large companies’ practice of late payment has to stop.
    Michael West provides us with Scott Morrison scorecard from before the triple black swan of bushfires, floods and virus.
    Kasey Edwards explains what we haven’t learnt from St Kevin’s. She makes quite a few good points.
    Meanwhile the acting principal of St Kevin’s College has been forced to step aside less than 24 hours after being promoted to the position, due to an allegation that she pressured a former school counsellor not to report a grooming allegation involving a teacher and a schoolboy.
    Christine Jackman gets stuck into Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson over their reaction to the St Kevin’s esposé.
    Our economy has become one in which the demand for employment exceeds the number of suitable vacancies, writes Nicholas Haines wo describes the job market as a game of musical chairs.,13611
    Nine months into his first term as elected Prime Minister, has the “miracle” man lost his halo and – like the acrid smoke which hung menacingly over the country – is Morrison’s Government on the nose asks Michelle Pini.,13614
    The closure of Australia’s largest coal-fired power plant could be brought forward as Origin Energy assesses a “range of scenarios”, including the impact of climate change and the influx of renewable energy, which could influence its shutdown date. This will set the Coalition rump going!
    Greg Bourne tells us that a paper published in the scientific journal Nature by Benjamin Hmiel and colleagues shows that the proportion of methane emissions made by man is 25 to 40 per cent greater than previously estimated. This represents bad news for the boosters of gas fired power.
    Nuclear power is expensive, slow, inflexible, uninsurable, toxic and dangerous at a time when renewable energy generation and storage is becoming faster, cheaper and more efficient writes Josh Wilson, shadow minister for the environment.
    The terms of reference for the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements steer a careful path around the question of climate change. What a surprise!
    Oh my! The Berejiklian government concedes the cost of its signature metro rail project under Sydney Harbour and the central city is set to blow out by up to $3 billion, laying blame primarily on an “overheated” market for contractors.
    Michelle Grattan’s Friday essay goes to the government juggling health security and wealth security as its China travel ban is extended.
    Victoria’s former Liberal party director has avoided a referral to Australia’s highest court over controversial ads designed to look like they came from the electoral commission. Looks like another green light to me.
    “Let’s get religion off the agenda – NOW” exhorts Rosemary Jacob.
    Isabelle Lane tells us how the battle for online grocery shopping supremacy in Australia is ramping up.
    Sam Maiden reports that Adam Bandt has called for school fees to be scrapped for public schools as families face costs of up to $5000 a year for ‘free’ education.
    According to Anthony Galloway Labor will go to the next election promising to achieve a net zero emissions target by the middle of the century and to junk Kyoto carry-over credits, again setting up climate change as a major battleground over the next two years.
    Judith Ireland writes that almost 18 per cent of Australian children live in poverty, amid fears “the next generation is set up for failure,” due to rising housing costs and stagnant income support.
    Rosemary Rogers, the former chief of staff to then-NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn, has pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining financial benefit by ­deception. $14.3m in fact.
    “When scandal means nothing, how can the media hold our leaders to account?”, asks Jeff Sparrow.
    The judge who handed down a 40 months sentence on Roger Stone blasted the notorious dirty trickster, describing his behaviour as “a threat to our most fundamental institutions”.
    Bernie Sanders is cruising towards the Democratic nomination but Richard Wolffe wonders if he can win.
    Qantas could deploy special flights to help retrieve stranded Chinese students as the window narrows for them to arrive in time for semester one.
    More than 150 historians and researchers have signed up to access the soon-to-open Vatican archives of Pope Pius XII, evidence of the intense scholarly interest into the World War II-era pope and his record during the Holocaust.
    This “businessman” has earned nomination for “Arsehole of the Week”.

    Cartoon Corner

    David Rowe

    Peter Broelman

    Matt Golding

    Mark David

    Glen Le Lievre

    Johannes Leak

    From the US

  2. Paris Street reacts to the nasty comments made by Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson –

    Paris Street
    This is what I have to say to Gerard Henderson and Andrew BOLT. Please share widely.

    Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson,

    I have listened to the comments you both made in relation to the ABC’s 4 Corners documentary that aired on Monday the 17th of February. In your own words, Andrew: “every action invites a reaction”. So, here is my reaction.

    To have what I was subjected to trivialised on Tuesday night, especially after it was mentioned (and this is assuming you have actually watched the entirety of the documentary), that I hoped telling my story would be the first step to moving on, is inconsiderate particularly when Gerard, you make the comment: “well of course we’re sympathetic to the victim”.

    Also, if you displayed any sympathy towards me, you wouldn’t be minimising what was inflicted upon me. Gerard, you wouldn’t respond to Andrew’s question “how bad was it” by saying “well not at all”. I was invited to jump into a 59 year olds bed. I was invited to lick the pre-cum off that same 59 year olds penis. The Facebook messages he sent me. I was fifteen. He was convicted of grooming me. For your own knowledge, (it clearly needs enhancement), please refer to the relevant legislation of what grooming actually is. In this, you should take note that, and I will now quote from the Victorian State Government website: “The offence of grooming concerns predatory conduct undertaken to prepare a child for sexual activity at a later time.” To listen to you say that no sex occurred is actually beyond relevant information of the crime itself.

    Speaking of facts Gerard, you said, and I quote: “I can understand the victims annoyance after the event but if you look at the hard facts of the case and you consider the time when this occurred…” Well, this occurred alongside a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. I was a victim of child sexual abuse. St Kevin’s is an institution. Please refer to the findings of that royal commission because this might enhance your knowledge (and hopefully some understanding) of the pain and suffering that victims endure from not being supported.

    Just to make it clear: I returned to St Kevin’s because this is where my friends were, my twin brother was (and I don’t know if you’ve ever tried doing this) but settling into another school at the same time you’re giving evidence in a criminal trial as a victim of sexual abuse isn’t very easy. What also isn’t very easy is settling back into a school where I was asked to maintain corridor relations with the dean of sport who endorsed Peter Kehoe, upon my return. You didn’t mention him in your ‘bolt report’ did you? Also, I found out about Stephen Russell’s reference in 2017. Not 2015. Fact check, or, check your facts before you make comments about them.

    Also, if you paid particular attention to the documentary Andrew, (I think this is necessary especially when you intend to make comments on a sensitive topic), you will note that he wasn’t, in your own words “later jailed”. He was in fact, and as Louise mentioned in the documentary: “sentenced to a community corrections order and placed on the sex offenders register for eight years”. Just a fact check.

    Now lastly Andrew, to say that “the school hadn’t had any complaints against him” well, this might well be true. But if you had any level of understanding into the issue of child sexual abuse, it might be worth noting that disclosure of this type of information (information that is very sensitive to the victim) can take significant time to be disclosed. On average it takes longer than 20 years for victims of child sexual abuse to disclose information.

    Please, both of you, build some common decency and human courtesy into what is required in relation to sexual abuse. Especially if you are to make public comments about it.

    Gerard Henderson and Andrew Bolt, how would you feel if someone acted the way Peter Kehoe did towards me, towards children of your own? Would your comments be any different?

    Reflect on the comments you have made and never make them again in the future. They make me sick

    • Paris Street has been in a psychiatric hospital as a result of his ordeal. I wonder if this was caused by the grooming or the court case where he was cross examined for 2 days by Robert Richter QC. My sister & I reckon the cross examination would have rattled him to the core of his being

  3. I think there should be a group “Arsehole of the Week” or maybe of the year award given to the Queensland police, certain sections of the media and all those whining men who are making excuses for the vile creature who murdered his wife and children and playing down his act of coldblooded, premeditated slaughter.

    The police are keeping “an open mind” on this murder, despite admitting they knew all about the violence in this relationship for some time.

    On Thursday, Det Insp Mark Thompson confirmed domestic and family violence orders had been granted against Baxter, saying there had been “a number of engagements of police” between the couple.

    “I can confirm Queensland police have engaged with both Hannah and her estranged husband in relation to domestic violence issues,” he said.

    “We have also engaged with both of the parties in referring them to support services.

    “When it comes to Hannah we have dealt with her on a number of occasions and worked with the Brisbane Domestic Violence Centre in supporting Hannah throughout her family issues. And we’ve also referred Rowan Baxter to support services as well.”

    But in comments that drew an immediate and angry response from domestic violence advocates, Thompson also said police would keep an “open mind” about Baxter’s motives and wanted to speak to people who knew both families

    FFS! Isn’t it clear what happened?

    The police are still asking if Ms Clarke might have been at fault, still trying to imply she must have “done something” to set him off, still trying to find a way to excuse this abhorrent excuse for a human being. It’s never the man’s fault, is it, it’s always the dead woman who must be blamed, she must have upset him.

    No wonder so many women suffer domestic abuse in silence, they know police will see their men as the victims.

    Certain media outlets (special award to the Daily Mail here, and I refuse to link their appalling, sugary crap) are talking up how much this vile creature loved his children, making a big deal of his links to NRL, although he never made the grade there.

    If he loved his children he would not have murdered them.

    Who cares what sports he played? It’s just not relevant. It’s all media attempts to make him seem to be the victim, a “good bloke” driven to an unspeakable, appalling act out of love.

    Then there are the usual chaps whining on Facebook posts about this “poor man” being driven to commit a crime because he missed his kids. I’ve just seen one of these whining dads saying wtte “of course he lost the plot, we all do when we are not able to be with our kids”. Have these idiots never worked out why their relationships broke down? Do they never think they might have been responsible? Of course not, they are too busy nursing their fragile, bruised egos to ever be able to admit they might have been at fault.

    This was far more than “losing the plot”. Who deliberately chooses exactly the right time, buys a jerrycan of petrol, heads to his wife’s residence and lies in wait until she has all the kids in the car before attacking with petrol and setting fire to the car? Only a monster bent on revenge because she dared leave him, that’s who. A controlling, jealous monster who places his own hurt feelings above the lives of his kids.

    It takes a real coward to do this, or to support someone who does such a thing. Cowards who thought it was perfectly OK to control and beat up their women but cannot bear the thought those women might find the courage to leave. Cowards who bleat about missing their kids when you can bet they barely noticed the presence of those children while they were living as a family.

    The only positive thing in this whole, terrible crime is this – at least this monster took his own life. Even then he was a coward. He didn’t burn with his kids, couldn’t face that pain, he stabbed himself in the chest and begged those who tried to help to let the fire burn.

    Hannah Clarke’s parents say this monster was jealous of his wife because she was fitter than him and had better qualifications as a trainer. They say he controlled every aspect of her life.

    At least this media story tells it as it is – no sickening gloss about a “loving father here, just HER side of the story, as witnessed by her parents.

    • The article by Jenna Price had a family photo at the top with the fathers face pixelated out. Another family photo did not pixelate his face …pity

      Would be great if all media outlets pixelated the faces of violent perpetrators and not naming them, rendering them “unpersons”

      Queensland Police should be unequivocal in their condemnation of a person who pours petrol over another and lights a match, whether the perpetrator is alive or not

    • Another thing that’s really pissing me off – the constant steam of men on social media blaming the Family Court.

      The Family Court were not involved in this.

      Baxter had to attend court next month, but not over access to his kids. He had breached a DVO and the police had charged him. That was what his court date was for.

  4. Dear Puff,

    I’m so sorry that you have been made to face those realities again. I certainly believe you about having to live with the consequences for a lifetime.

    You’ve also had to deal with so many other losses over the past few years.

    I can’t do ‘prayers’, but I hope that you can find some comfort in knowing that even people you haven’t met do acknowledge the traumas you continue to face.


  5. Add Bettina Arndt and Mark Latham to that group Arseholes of the Year award.

    They are behaving in their usual anti-female way, condemning “feminists” for piling onto a poor, wronged man. I’m not going to post their tweets.

    You can also add Sunrise for giving Latham a platform.

  6. The resources, water and northern Australia minister, Keith Pitt, and Nationals senator Matt Canavan will both update their register of interests over errors in relation to interests in investment properties.

    Canavan will amend his register to declare two properties worth more than $1m after Guardian Australia revealed he had relied on an incorrect reading of rules that interests disclosed to previous parliaments do not need to be re-declared.

    Pitt, who was elevated to the ministry in the latest reshuffle after Canavan resigned, told Guardian Australia he made an “administrative” error in failing to declare he owns a beneficial interest in, and is the director and secretary of, Branyan Investments Pty Ltd.

    • Why do they always wait until they have been caught breaking the rules before they update their registers?

      Are they so arrogant they assume they won’t be found out, or are they so stupid they cannot manage a nit of paperwork?

  7. Also in ref. to domestic violence… They are going to print labels on alcoholic drinks warning pregnant women. Why not also warn their partners, those who can’t control their violence towards them.

  8. Brisbane car fire detective taken off the case after suggesting killer Rowan Baxter may have been ‘driven too far’

    Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll says the decision to stand down the detective who was leading the investigation into Wednesday's murder-suicide at Camp Hill "had to be made".

    On Thursday afternoon, at a press conference about the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her three children Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey in a car fire, Detective Inspector Mark Thompson suggested killer Rowan Baxter may have been "driven too far".

    Commissioner Carroll said Inspector Thompson volunteered to stand aside when she asked him to remove himself from the investigation via phone call this morning.

    "And I totally agreed with that," she said.

    "In fairness to Mark and myself and the agency, we want to remove the noise and concentrate on the issue.

    "There is a mother and three children who have been murdered and I want to concentrate on that

  9. Good morning Dawn Patrollers

    Peter Hartcher basically tells Morrison to either shit or get off the pot. He looks at the country’s moribund economy, its infrastructure deficit and public lack of confidence.
    Ross Gittins gets to the bottom of what wages growth is so slow.
    Paul Bongiorno describes Morrison’s slow burn.
    Paul Kelly recons Albanese has bet his leadership on zero emissions.
    Laura Tingle tells us what Gaetjens’ fine print reveals about the sports rorts. She says that in politics, the question you are asked can be just as crucial as the context in which you answer.
    Politics lecturer George Rennie writes that the sports rorts experience tells us we need an independent umpire.
    Over the past year, the government has allocated nearly $5 billion through measures hidden from public view, bypassing the senate. Experts now warn this may be illegal explains Karen Middleton.
    Katharine Murphy says that given the Coalition’s unconscionable track record, it is very, very hard to assume the Morrison government will approach anything in climate change policy from a position of good faith.
    And Calla Wahlqvist writes that another adversarial royal commission risks repeating past recommendations without addressing the new element – climate change.
    Simon Holmes à Court declares that the government’s sudden passion for climate technology is newfound and insincere.
    Domestic violence statistics in Australia are growing worse and our government must share the blame, writes John Wren in his weekly political roundup.,13621
    In a major step forward in the fight to combat the coronavirus disease, an Australian factory has started producing a test dose of a vaccine.
    Mike Seccombe writes that while Chinese-owned businesses struggle through a downturn, questions remain about whether Australia’s coronavirus response stoked racist fear.
    Meanwhile a South Korean church with a messianic leader was identified as a hotbed of coronavirus cases as the outbreak grows in parts of the country.
    Ian Warden wants journos to take off the kid gloves and question Morrison over the influence of his Pentecostal beliefs on policy and (in)action. It’s a cracker.
    Adam Carey writes that the new principal of St Kevin’s College has promised students and parents his “door is always open” and said the students who spoke out about grooming had given the school a “mandate for change”. What say you Gerard and Andrew?
    St Kevin’s College, abuse and the language of pain.
    The mismanagement of our bushfire crisis by the Liberal Government would have been avoided had Bill Shorten been elected, writes Emma Goldrick.,13620
    The Great Barrier Reef could be about to experience its most widespread outbreak of mass coral bleaching ever seen, according to an analysis from the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
    A group of Labor MPs now fear the Labor leader’s move to set the long-term target has placed the party in a position of having climate goals, but no detailed plans on how to achieve them.
    The SMH editorial declares that the disabled must not pay the cost of hitting a budget surplus.
    Adele Ferguson says that the scourge of wage fraud demands action – but she doesn’t sound too hopeful.
    Law professor Joanna Howe examines whether corporate wage underpayment is by accident or by design. This article describes many broken things.
    As secretive Liberal Party donors line up for the privatisation of Australia’s visa processing, the deal has now been held up and may require new legislation to pass both houses of Parliament. Michael Sainsbury reports.
    According to Rick Morton experts in the aged-care sector warn that the government may reduce waiting lists for home-care programs by restricting their eligibility requirements, leaving thousands of older Australians in need. He says it may merely be an accounting trick.
    Nick McKenzie uncovers yet more shady activity by our casino industry.
    The quest to understand how a passenger train’s routine detour onto a siding became a death ride for its veteran driver and local pilot is focusing on three potential catalysts for catastrophe: track, speed and signals.
    Moves by an ultra-Orthdox Jewish community in Israel to block the extradition of a principal accused of abusing students is harming the relationship. This is ultra-BS!
    The Saturday Paper looks at the impacts of Holden’s demise.
    Fergus Hunter tells us that the country’s chief health officers have advised the government there is a case to ease the ban subject to certain conditions.
    Rod Meyer tells us how David Jones has turned its back on the suburbs and everyday shoppers and is placing all its hopes for the future on a group of increasingly ritzy urban stores.
    Hundreds of public servants face months of uncertainty about their jobs because of a large backlog in processing promotion appeals arising from recent recruitment rounds.
    According to David Scutt a Bernie Sanders victory could deliver a 180-degree reversal in US policy that will send shockwaves across markets.

    Cartoon Corner

    David Rowe

    Alan Moir

    Peter Broelman

    John Shakespeare

    Jim Pavlidis

    Jon Kudelka

    Matt Golding

    Mark David

    Johannes Leak still on the bandwagon.

    From the US

  10. Rick Morton on aged care –

    It seems to me the government wants to force old people into nursing homes. They have failed to keep up with demand for packages and now they want to dodge around that failure by making eligibility tougher. That means more oldies will have no alternative but to move into nursing homes with all the horrors that usually involves.

    What other reason could there be?

    Then there’s this – government cuts to the public service have created this mess.

    Ex-PM&C boss Terry Moran says the delivery of public services is in a ‘hell of a mess’
    Mr Moran said the outsourcing of services in aged care, disability services, vocational education and training and employment services showed how heavily invested the federal government was in the outsourcing model.

    But as the aged care royal commission continues to highlight serious failings and shortcomings in the nation’s aged care system, the former PM&C head said the evidence showed that outsourcing was “just not working”.

    He warned, however, that because the outsourcing model had involved stripping departments of resources and expertise, they had little capacity to reintegrate service delivery functions.

    “The Commonwealth has found it very difficult to come to terms with [the failure of service delivery outsourcing], having dismantled all the apparatus it used to have to run some of these activities within the Australian Public Service,” Mr Moran said. “They are a little bit bereft.”

    This government is making a hell of a mess of everything. It’s going to take decades to recover.

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