This site is supported by Nobility Studios.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

Jules Verne gets another airing

3 posts in this topic

Posted

Many of the book I read are children’s fiction (and non-fiction). My preference for children’s fiction is twofold. First, novels for children often contain illustrations which feeds my interest in exploring visual communication (which includes, for example, the images contained in dreams). Secondly, writing is another of my interests. Children’s authors often point out that writing children’s fiction is much more difficult than writing adult fiction. The reason for this is that stories for children must be to the point i.e. tell a story in a straightforward manner with no extraneous detail. (An American president, I think it was Woodrow Wilson, also recognised this difficulty. He claimed that it took him up to several hours to write a 10 minute speech, whereas it might only take him only an hour to write a one hour speech.) This succinct, economical style of writing is one I am eager to develop and children’s writing is where it is practiced most.

Having said all that, I do quite simply enjoy reading children’s novels, my preference being for fantasy fiction.

Title: Return to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – A Luke Challenger Adventure

Author: S Barlow, S Skidmore

Genre: Junior Fiction, Adventure

Published: 2011

The story takes place in 1934 and the two main characters are 15 year old British boys. They become involved in a race to recover the sunken wreck of Captain Nemo’s submarine, Nautilus. The Nautilus is the first, and the only, nuclear powered submarine. Captain Nemo, its architect, has been dead for many years, thus whoever salvages the submarine will obtain the secret of nuclear power i.e. the atomic bomb.

In common with increasingly many modern children’s books, the main characters do not know they are children i.e. that they are apprenticed to adults. This is to say that they behave as if they are at least the equal of, or know and understand a great deal more than, the various adults they encounter. In this book these adults include their parents, as well as highly experienced seamen and engineers. This fantasy is reinforced in the following manner: firstly, by the adults’ failure to correct the children’s behaviour and, even worse, encouraging it by actually treating them as their equals or even their superiors. Secondly, by the children’s actions, often taken without the permission or knowledge of the adults, which “save the day” by either safely delivering them all from a life or death situation, or by defeating the enemy. (The reality is, of course, that the children’s gung-ho, know-it-all behaviour is more likely to endanger other people’s lives, than to save them.) This departure from reality demonstrates extremely damaging, unhealthy and unnatural child behaviour. Children who behave as if adults have nothing to teach them disable their own ability to learn. Unless it is corrected, this results in all sorts of psychological problems for children as they become older.

Another criticism of this book concerns the xenophobic attitude of the protagonists. The main characters are British (there is also one American who plays a prominent part), while the ‘enemy’ is Japan and Germany. The protagonists see it as their moral duty to stop the enemy obtaining the secret of atomic weapons before Britain or her allies the Americans, the underlying attitude being that Britain and the USA are not “power-hungry” and can therefore be trusted with such a weapon, whereas other nations cannot. This, of course, ignores history i.e. as soon as America developed atomic weapons, it immediately bombed Japan. (Why, one must ask, were alternatives to bombing Japan, e.g. only issuing a threat to use the weapon, not considered and acted upon by America?)

My suggestion to parents (or teachers) of children who read this book (and other books in the series) is this: that these books, for the above reasons, should come with a public health warning. This is not to say that children should not read the book. On the contrary, despite the criticisms, the story is a well told, enjoyable action-adventure. I would recommend, however, that the book’s shortcomings be used as discussion points with children as an awareness raising exercise which will assist in enabling them to read more critically e.g. by questioning the actions, behaviour and attitudes of characters who are intended to be sympathetic, even role models, rather than to merely accept, and possibly even admire, them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

If you like writing, you might want to contribute something to the Write forum. There are others here who have a huge interest in reading and writing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Thanks, DaveT, I'll bear your suggestion in mind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0