I was discussing plans for The Solstice Series (the second part of The Equinox Series) with my writing partner and we reached an impasse.
She believes that death has no place in a children’s book, unless it’s the death of a villain.
I believe that death is a topic that should definitely be addressed in children’s books, especially if it’s the demise of a ‘good’ character.
Death is a part of life. Specifically, the end part. Everyone experiences it, no matter their age; no one escapes it. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is something with which many people struggle, especially children if they are too young to understand how to cope, and what death really means.
My argument for including death is because of this struggle. Books I read as a child included death: Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Narnia and many more. When my Granddad died when I was 7, I remember being confused about why everyone was crying. It wasn’t until about a month later, when I visited my Nan, the full realisation of what death meant truly hit me. My Granddad would never sit in his favourite armchair again. He’d never wait until my Mum left the room so he could eat my vegetables without her seeing. He’d never lie down on the carpet to help me with puzzles, and he’d never cuddle me again.
I remember feeling completely lost, because no one wanted to talk about it. I remember losing myself in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Mary lost both of her parents and was alone in a huge mansion. The world is too big for her without her parents and she has no one to talk to, until she finds her cousin, hidden away in a wing of the house. That loneliness, and the emptiness of the moors and the house, spoke volumes to me, as did the resurgence of the secret garden itself that, after some care and attention, began to bloom again.
Harry Potter flat out declared that Harry’s parents had been murdered. This was no big deal when I read Philosopher’s Stone, but Fred Weasley’s death is a wound that still hasn’t healed – purely because of how unfair it was. But that’s okay. Because death isn’t fair and it still happens anyway. Knowing that these fictional characters deal with death can help children deal with it in their real lives. It provides assurance in black and white: you are not alone in this.
Not everyone agrees. For example: Harry Potter has been banned for many reasons, but one of these is death being ‘too scary’ for children. I can’t understand this point of view, because children face scary situations in real life all the time. Including death. Books can go a long way to help them deal with that.
Death is always a touchy subject, but I think its presence in children’s books is very important, especially when handled well.
What are your thoughts?