Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I can be exceptionally critical both of the craft and the message of the books I’m reading to my daughters and that my eldest daughter (all of 5) is reading to herself. Right now, because the eldest is into fairies, so is the youngest (about to turn 3). There are two fairy books the girls are excited about right now, and I am critical of both, but for very different reasons.
The first is a series of books by Daisy Meadows, which Wikipedia reliably informs me is a pseudonym for a cadre of writers. My complaint with these “Rainbow Magic” books is the craft. Not the plotting or the characters – both of which are properly measured for my daughter’s age – but the actual technical craft. Surely, some will say, if it is written for children, craft is not important. To which I reply: but we learn how to speak and how to write based on what we read. If what we read is faulty, we will learn faulty grammar and diction. Now, the books are not particularly poorly written, but I do cringe each time I must read them. This, I know, is the writer in me, the one who has problems not critiquing even material I am reading for enjoyment.
I will say that I have a small complaint regarding the villains, which are seen in the kind of stark black terms Tolkien reserves for orcs. The goblin bad-guys are not evil per se, more mischievous, but seem totally unrepentant and – as a race – lacking in redeeming qualities. It’d be nice to see the main villain, Jack Frost, finally atone for his misdeeds, join the fairy king and queen (Oberon and Titania, no less) and bring a new villain onto the stage. I still dig Tolkien though, so I’m muting that complaint.
Given these complaints, I will continue to buy these books as long as my daughters continue to request them. The two main characters – young girls – are independent, resourceful and willing to take risks. While they sometimes fail, they finally succeed, and they do so because they persevere. They act not out of self-interest, but in order to help the innocent—the fairies – who have been victimized. The girls profit nothing save by gaining friendship, adventure, and experience. These are lessons I want my daughters to internalize. I want my daughters to emulate these characters, sans the fairies.
In contrast, Disney’s Disney Fairies Storybook Collection has a couple of stories in it that make my blood run cold. While the technical skill is far better than in the Rainbow Magic series, the message of the Disney Fairies seems to be “you are born into a role which you can never, and should never escape.” Tinker Bell, in these stories, is mechanically apt, which I was very excited when introduced to the stories (mechanical aptitude is something else I hope my daughter’s will emulate which daddy absolutely does not have). However, when Tinker Bell decides she wants to do something else, she not only cannot succeed at the other “talents” (think of “bending” from Avatar: the Last Air Bender, as each fairy has a particular talent, some with water, or tinkering, or animals, or even light). In the end, she learns to be happy in her place, as a tinker talent.
This reminds me far too much of the Medieval Catholic church – if you are born a peasant, that is what God intended, and it is a sin to strive for more. Do not upset the great chain of being, or chaos will ensue.
You know what? Screw you, Disney. Your damnable princess stories have messed my girls up enough with the constant drumbeat of “you are useless until you find the right man.” Even when you try to be more inclusive, you’re telling them to mind their place and stay under the stairs less the better quality of people be affrighted by their presence.
My hate is hot enough to thaw Walt’s head and then melt it like Todt in Raider’s of the Lost Ark.
Here endeth the lesson.
Wikipedia informs me about Daisy Meadows here.
Encounter the Rainbow Magic for yourself, here.
I refuse to link to Disney. I will, however, link to head melties.