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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Am I evil in demanding high standards?

I've been teaching an online graduate course on fairy tales as children's literature these past few weeks. Recently, we debated heatedly about picture book fakelores and whether they should remain on library shelves and classrooms. Some of my students were puzzled by my passionate stance, believing that as long as the books are in high quality, with good stories and great illustrations, created by well-intentioned and reputable authors/illustrators, what's the big deal if they might be misleading. One student stated that if she was to choose between a beautifully made story, with some misrepresentation of the culture, but entertaining to the young readers, and a boring but accurate book, she would definitely choose the former. I completely understand how she feels. But, a big question remains:

Why would we even need to "choose"? Why couldn't we demand that books created for children and purchased by libraries and schools always be both accurate and entertaining? Why would anyone want to just settle for the lesser evil?

(I've been called the mean step-sister by a student already, so I imagine that I'm probably an evil step-mother now that I want these teachers and librarians to never settle for second best and always demand the best for our kids and for ourselves.)



At 5:01 PM , Anonymous SamRiddleburger said...

I guess I don't quite see how the stories are to be made accurate.

And would you allow out books that purposefully mingle the stories of two cultures?

And on a lighter note, why did JK Rowling name the werewolf Fenrir instead of Fenris?

At 7:43 AM , Blogger fairrosa said...

As long as it is absolutely clear to the intended audience that liberties are taken and that mingling is happening.. of course, I'll "allow." It is when cultural accuracy is sacrificed or inaccuracy is disguised as "accuracy" that I find problematic.

At 10:09 PM , Blogger Emily said...

Very belatedly--

I think, despite assertions (Joseph Campbell?) of the universality of story, different cultures definitely have different standards for what makes a good story. A lot of the stories in, for example, Royall Tyler's book on Japanese folklore (which is meticulously researched) don't stand up very well to Western standards of "entertaining."

Which raises the question, for me, of whether you can always have a story that is both entertaining and accurate.


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