One of my favourite kids’ books is Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Or, well, pick anything by Roald Dahl, really. The best thing about a Roald Dahl book, I always feel, is the moral of the story.
That is, the fact that it usually doesn’t have one. Child genius dumps stupid parents for sweet and much better educated singleton? Ok… Red Riding Hood saves three little pigs from the Big Bad Wolf – and ends up with wolfskin gloves and bacon for breakfast? Mmmm.
You can’t pick up a kids’ book these days without being battered senseless by some kind of improving message. Share your toys. Home is best. All things come to those who persevere. You’re wonderful just as you are. Maybe even more wonderful if you paid more attention to your parents’ wise advice. Etc. Etc.
I’m thinking about this as I pen a sequel to Bad Dog, the story of a disobedient dog, a bogan bully, a lawyer who likes tutus, and a beautiful Swedish vivisectionist. Bad Dog takes a kid to places he or she probably shouldn’t go – and yet, who says she shouldn’t? Like a theme park ride, maybe there should be a sign saying ‘You must be THIS high to enter’ – but perhaps there’s a place for stories that make a ten year old ask a few pertinent questions, too.
Or maybe not. You couldn’t really donate a pet dog to a laboratory, could you Mummy? Well, erm…yes (just not Spot, obviously, darling.). There are bad things in the world, and Roald Dahl, old-style fairy stories and (in its own, amateur way) stories like Bad Dog introduce us to them gently. Or not so gently, as in the case of the original Cinderella, whose ugly sisters had their feet amputated (or burnt off – I can’t remember which. Whatever, it was nasty).
The sequel, Bad Dog and Il Principessa, concerns the same very bad dog and his adventures with the Queen of feral cats, a sort of feline mob boss who forms an unlikely bond with a local bikie gang leader. Bikie gangs, the mafia, and…kids? I dunno. But it’s the story I want to write. After all, you don’t think kids’ books are really for KIDS, do you? Ha!
I grew up on the knights of the Round Table – and Regency Romance. At eight, I knew that my dream lover would be pure of heart and unfailingly courteous to ladies of all degrees. I also knew that he should rip the thin silk from my…
Moving right along….what do you expect from kids’ books? What did you grow up reading, and how did it influence you to be who you are now?