Children’s books that don’t have happy endings should be banned, it was claimed yesterday.Youngsters are already exposed to enough misery in their lives and should be protected from such stories, says a parents’ group.
The Happy Ending Foundation is planning a series of Bad Book Bonfires for later this month, when parents will be encouraged to burn novels with negative endings.
The foundation has also written to school librarians across the country to coincide with Children’s Book Week, which began on Monday, urging them to take ‘ controversial’ books off shelves.
Last night critics of the group said children needed a healthy balance in their reading.
Others said the book burnings were a sinister reminder of similar events in Nazi Germany.
Among the stories on the foundation’s blacklist are best-sellers such as A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and Marcus Pfister’s Milo and the Magical Stones.
Works that make the approved list include Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series.
The Snowman appears to have a sad ending because he melts, leaving the boy he has befriended alone. But the foundation claims it ends positively because the boy is contented, having the snowman’s scarf to remember him by.
Adrienne Small founded the organisation when her ten-year-old daughter became depressed and withdrawn after reading the first book in the Lemony Snicket series.
She said: “I talked to other mothers and friends and we decided to do something positive with books that were more upbeat.
“I’m not trying to say the world should be viewed with rose-tinted glasses but you have got to do your best to protect your children.”
Mrs Small, 47, who is married with two teenage children, founded the organisation in 2000 and there are now 11 groups across the country, including London, Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow.
Clare Hughes, head of the foundation’s East of England Cheering Committee, said: “I’ve seen the way my children respond to real life, whether that be the disappearance of a child, like Madeleine McCann, or bombings, and that gives them enough nightmares.
“Books should let them be assured that the goodies will come out on top.”
But children’s charity Kidscape condemned a campaign which would lead to young people ‘missing out on the magic of literature’.
Director Michele Elliott said: “There is a distance between you and a book which allows you to experience emotions and think about what’s happening – but it’s not happening to you. That’s incredibly healthy.
“There has to be a balance. I would not feed children a complete diet of morbid books.”
Award-winning children’s author Kevin Brooks, whose books have a reputation for emotional rollercoasters and disturbing cliffhangers, said the proposed burnings were reminiscent of the Nazi regime.
“Controversy and bad stuff is everywhere,” he said. “It is far better to find out about it in books where it is written with some feeling and poetry and power.”
Personally, I don’t like bad endings, but I think this is too much! Literature in some ways is a reflection of life, and by taking the element of sadness away in books would just make reading more fantastical and escapist than it is already (which is not necessarily a bad thing – to me that is).
And oh, if you don’t already know, you might want to read the comments – I certainly didn’t know until I was told, haha!