Don’t you just love those old Ladybird books? One of DD’s grandmas lent her the original Ladybird version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves last week. I was really looking forward to reading it to her as I remembered it so clearly from my own childhood. Or thought I did. As I sat my three and a half year old little treasure on my capacious lap and started to read, I became more and more uncomfortable with the story and the language.
After all, imagine a budding children’s author today pitching an idea for a story for pre-schoolers: ‘Yeah, it’s about this young girl who lives with seven short middle aged men and it includes multiple mentions of death, evil, attempted murder, poison and Poe-esque coffin entrapment’. Imagine publisher booting writer out of plush Bloomsbury offices and calling The Authorities.
Needless to say, DD survived the reading of Snow White and the seven ‘warves’, as she calls them. (No, I don’t know what a warf is). I asked two trusty mummy friends what they thought, and they were unfazed: didn’t do us any harm, it’s parents rather than kids who get all uptight about scary tales, small children take things at face value rather than attach emotion to them, look at how much kids have always loved the Brothers Grimm and Roald Dahl. And let’s not even talk about the backstories of children’s writers/books like Alice Through the Looking Glass and the Narnia stories.
OK, I get this, but I still wondered if there were any modern books telling the story of Snow White that are a little less graphic and a little more humorous, that might fit better into a household addicted to all things Julia Donaldson (who features her fair share of ‘mild peril’, it has to be said).
A longish chat and look round with the lovely girl in Waterstones confirmed that all three or four recently published versions essentially tell the same story with just as many mentions of death, poison, evil etc etc. (DD set eyes on the Disney version in book form so we had to leave pronto before I sold another piece of my pink princess’s soul to Walt), and I have concluded that we may as well keep on reading the classic Ladybird book.
No nightmares so far, unlike after every reading of Zagazoo (when he turns into the hairy creature, Quentin Blake’s pictures terrify even me, reminding me of the cloud men in the early editions of James and the Giant Peach).
So what do you think? Have any children’s books made you squirm a bit? Have your little ones ever been upset by a story? Or does it all just wash over them?