Wednesday, April 19, 2006

And People Say TV Has Nothing To Offer

At the risk of sounding like an old coot, I am going to admit to occasionally watching Masterpiece Theater. Over the last two weeks that program has offered film versions of books of interest to children. Books I'd never heard of, by the way.

Two weeks ago the Masterpiece People aired My Family and Other Animals, an adaptation of a memoir by Gerald Durrell. The story centers on the Durrell family's experiences living in Corfu just prior to the Second World War, when "Gerry" was twelve- to thirteen-years-old. This is definitely one of those eccentric English family stories, which I happen to like, anyway. Durrell's siblings really do appear to be a handful for their long-suffering mother. (The woman was a saint, a saint, I tell you.) I don't know if the book is as entertaining, but this video version seems to me as if it could be a great introduction for younger kids to the idea of a memoir. Except for the guy who explains to Gerry that he had his wife sewn up after their second child was born. And the mother trying to explain sex to Gerry. It just depends on how sensitive the adults at the school are to that kind of thing.

Here is a question teachers' could ask after showing the video: Gerald Durrell wrote this memoir in 1956, close to twenty years after he lived these events. Do you think his book would have been different if he had written it while it while these events were happening?

I should have been a teacher, huh?

Last week, M.P. aired Carrie's War from the children's book by Nina Bawden. Carrie's War deals with the experience of siblings evacuated from London to Wales during the Second World War. (The Brits do like to write about the Big One. Though, I guess if I'd been bombed as often as they were, it would be weighing heavily on my mind, too.) Like the heroine of Carrie's War, Bawden, too, was evacuated from London.

The evacuation of children from London during the Second World War has inspired almost a genre of books, such as Good Night, Mr. Tom, about what was for many children a traumatizing experience. I haven't finished watching Carrie's War, yet, so I can't comment too much on this particular story. I'm liking what I've seen so far, though.

I also like this quote at the M.P. website attributed to Nina Bawden: She said that children are "a kind of subject race, always at the mercy of the adults who mostly run their lives for them." So true, so true.

Bawden has written 19 books for children and 23 for adults, two of which were on the short list for the Booker Award. Not too shabby.

And to think I'd never heard of her.

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