Everyone loves the Paperbag Princess… except we kind of didn’t. We know we’re probably alone in that.
#2 did have a recording of the author reading it that she listed to a lot as a child and liked. #1 didn’t read it until she was older and felt too deeply about it. Like, why is she even giving this jerk the time of day? Poor dragon, stuff like that. #1 thinks perhaps she wasn’t getting the messages it was trying to give, but the ones it wasn’t trying to give. Like, women are supposed to be subordinate to men. That thought would not have crossed my mind, and yet, it is presented as the default option in the Paperbag Princess. Sort of like educational television that makes kids behave worse because seeing the bad behavior that gets resolved at the end is more striking than the eventual resolution.
We like the books that don’t present it as a conflict, but instead present the ideal as status quo. And we really only know one book like that.
We LOVED Boy Meets Boy. It takes place at a school where there’s no question about whether it’s ok to be gay. It’s like 2/3 of the book in where the author addresses how weird that it’s not like that in other towns. Boy Meets Boy is a splendid book and people should read it!
Of course, we also know that ignoring -isms doesn’t make them go away. They do need to be brought to light and discussed. But maybe subtlety isn’t the best way in children’s books.
Should literature present the ideal or present the reality, and when?