Sunday, 11 July 2010

Do you need parents

when writing for children? Anne Cassidy wrote about getting rid of the adults on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure the other day and I have been thinking about this off and on ever since, more specifically about parents than adults.
In Margaret Storey's "Pauline", Pauline has no parents but she lives with cousins. She calls them "uncle" and "aunt" because they are so much older and they are insensitive enough to suggest she substitute her dead parents for them. There is not a great deal said about her grief for her father. He has been living in Jamaica and she obviously has not seen much of him but, when dressing for an evening meal, she chooses the pendant he has given. It is a quiet act of defiance, perhaps one that not even the author was aware of when she wrote it. Pauline needs her parents.
Catherine Storr's Vicky is a slightly different story. She has been adopted at birth. Her mother has died. It is only when her adoptive mother dies that Vicky goes searching but she is searching for information about her natural mother rather than anything else. When she does meet her grandmother there is no welcome, rather shock at the appearance of an unknown grandchild and Vicky chooses to leave rather than confront her natural father. It is a dreadful moment. Her adoptive father is not a demonstrative man and, until that moment, the reader cannot even be sure he really cares for his adopted daughter. How much he cares is still uncertain. It is likely that the police officer who helps her in her search cares more. Vicky is still going to have problems. There really is no happy ending. The adults in her life have let her down. And, although there is a reunion in Ann Holm's "I am David", there is a lingering doubt there about how well the two are going to get on.
On the other hand the Callendar children in John Verney's books do have parents, if slightly eccentric parents. Their parents are there and available and so are other adults. It does not stop the Callendars getting on and doing things but their parents are acknowledged.
Parents are also present in books like L'Engles, "The young unicorns". They are a restraining influence but their presence does not prevent the action from taking place. The same is true in Paul Berna's "A hundred million francs". The children may take risks playing with the old pram in the street but they still have to answer to adults when things go wrong.
I rather suspect however that it is easier to get rid of the parents, indeed to get rid of the adults. It is what most children believe they want, to be rid of the restraining influence of adults who do not permit them to do just as they want. Children have not yet come to realise the potential awfulness of this, Golding's "Lord of the flies" does not exist for them.
Even unseen adults can be an influence on the proceedings however - and perhaps it is better that way.


Melinda Szymanik said...

One of the parents of my draft YA does a terrible thing. I think the children would prefer there were no adults in their story

catdownunder said...

Now I want to know what the terrible thing, don't tell me...I have a terrible thing in mine too.