Children’s author Julia Donaldson has come under fire recently for including a scene in her newest book, The Scarecrow’s Wedding, where a character smokes a cigar.
Children’s author Julia Donaldson has come under fire recently for including a scene in her newest book, The Scarecrow’s Wedding, where a character smokes a cigar. The character is named Reginald Rake, and is a scarecrow who blows smoke rings in the story.
An archaic attitude?
The books has caused controversy and parents have labelled the scene as “disgusting” and “uncomfortable.” Is it really that big of a deal? It seems like such a cliche to say, but isn’t the attitude of some parents very archaic considering we live in the twenty-first century?
I could understand it if the story was written to portray smoking as a good thing, but Donaldson’s story clearly shows smoking as a bad thing. Donaldson has said that she would “never encourage smoking in a children’s book.”
What is the criticism all about?
Some parents have complained that after reading the story to their children, their children had asked if they could have a cigar. Whilst this does mean they might have missed the message that the story was trying to convey (which isn’t all that unusual given that they are young children after all) it does present the perfect opportunity to educate your child about the dangers of smoking.
Life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine
I admit that I do understand some of the complaints about it being a bit too much, or the theme being a bit too mature for young children. However, I don’t think, just because it may be a bit uncomfortable, that it shouldn’t be in the book.
If we stuck to the ideology that any scene that could be thought of as uncomfortable or inappropriate for children should not be mentioned in children’s literature, then we would have very few and very short children’s books being published in future. For example, if we were to abide by these rules then the story of the boy who cried wolf not be published anymore, because we all know how that ends.
Real life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine and, whilst I am not advocating sex and sleaze to become a staple of children’s books, I do think the alarm and panic over a scarecrow smoking the cigar is over the top and, in my opinion, laughable.
The scene in no way glamorises or promotes smoking in anyway and goes to great length to point out the dangers of it. The major plot of the book is derived from the fire that begins due to the scarecrow smoking the cigar. I know Julia Donaldson’s books are aimed at very young children but I still think, unless they’ve lived in doors all their short lives, children will have seen at least one person smoking before.
Children’s books present the perfect opportunity for parents to discuss delicate subjects with their children and if we censor these messages then we’re robbing children of important lessons that they really need to learn early in their lives.
It seems that the subject won’t be easily settled, however, as similar controversy has been sparked in the United States due to the publication of a children’s book dealing with the issue of carrying guns called My Parents Open Carry.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.
Image: Murdo Macloed/The Guardian