Thursday, September 1, 2011

Children's books

Some children's books can be appreciated by readers who ceased, long ago, to be children. No doubt the finest cases of such literature are the works of Lewis Carroll… but one might claim that the author imagined his juvenile readers as intellectually-endowed individuals capable of being intrigued by logical enigmas, linguistic bizarreries and all kinds of puzzling things.

I've always thought of Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows as a splendid example of a children's book that can be enjoyed by adults.

On the other hand, certain books that I found extraordinarily exciting as a child had lost all their charm when I rediscovered them years later. The most disappointing case of this kind, for me, was the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. When I was about 11 years old, these adventure stories—of a Boy Scout and Girl Guide tone—were the summit of thrilling fiction.

These days, I would imagine that many adults have derived pleasure from reading the Harry Potter books. Personally, having seen some of the movies on TV, I became rapidly bored by all that pointing of magic wands and riding of flying broomsticks. It's definitely not my kettle of fish, but I can understand that many adults might appreciate this kind of stuff.

A new book for children will be coming out on October 4, and I've just put in an advance order for it. I'm referring to The Magic of Reality, the latest book by Richard Dawkins. I'm happy to see that the author is already exploiting this forthcoming event to promote the teaching of evolutionary science in primary schools. That would be a wonderful idea.

We've already seen an excellent specimen of writing from Dawkins for a child. I'm referring to the final chapter of A Devil's Chaplain, entitled A Prayer for My Daughter (first published in 1995), in which Dawkins provides his 10-year-old daughter Juliet with various "good and bad reasons for believing".

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