Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nah nah ne nah nah

I've been speaking this week to Isabel Berwick from the FT, who is interested in the particular phenomenon that is Horrid Henry. You can read her piece here. Like Isabel, I am intrigued by the apparent lack of moral structure in these stories, but I think it makes a bit more sense when we think about what young readers are having to do in terms of entering the storyworld of the books. This is one of those instances where, I think, parents have to make calls on the basis of knowledge of their children but also - if possible - knowledge of some of the relevant research. That's been my approach throughout this whole project. I would rather parents made decisions for themselves, based on good information, rather than swallow prescriptions from so-called experts. As ever, if you have thoughts on this or anything else that's covered here, I'd love to hear them. 


  1. I like the idea of these books and have bought them for my nephew because I thought he'd enjoy them. It's pretty clear from the title that Henry is not a lovable child...

    Overall, i think stories are a good way for children to think about the boundaries and identify good behaviour, manipulation, influence and outright deceit. These stories will be one of the ways that I can help Peaches spot bad behaviour and understand why some people do bad things in order to get their own way.

    Aside from wanting her to enjoy reading, I'd like her to be streetwise. These books would probably help.

    Also! I've been reading Jane Austen - sense and sensibility has adults doing some pretty awful things while pretending they are doing the best thing. These themes are in literature everywhere and you don't have to be an especially literary or intelligent person to spot them.

  2. I wonder if a child's enjoyment of these books is any different to our experience of being 'bad' as adults?

    My feeling is that we experience quite a profound sense of freedom when we are breaking the 'rules' - (There is perhaps, a distinction to be made here between 'rules' and 'Law'.)

    Perhaps this is no different to the child's sense of liberation from adult rule, borne out by identifying with Henry's actions.

    If so, I perhaps it could be argued that it's a perfectly healthy experience?

  3. Charles FernyhoughDecember 9, 2008 at 7:44 AM

    I agree with all of these comments. The point I was making in the FT piece was that you have to be sure that children know where they are in terms of the distinction between reality and fantasy. Storyworlds are indeed wonderful safe zones where we can play with all sorts of different identities. But parents need to be sure that their children know how to make the step back into reality, when the times comes. I think that most of the time they are, but it depends on the child and it depends on the age.