This week, it's part two of our series unpacking what defines our perception of nostalgia. What better way to understand how our connection with stories starts than turning back the clock to look at children's stories.
We look at why stories might not be seen in the same light you remember them, why sometimes analyzing things a bit too closely isn't the right thing to do, and understanding how storytelling for children is a far different thing than writing for adults.
Clips used in this episode:
Allie Wiggle Ring a ring o rosy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_TibwLfjWE
FMD Baa Baa Black Sheep https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKBeoKN9Fvo
Roald Dahl interview and short film - Pebble Mill at One 1982
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Waterstones https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXHScpo_Vv8
Penguin KIds - Eric Carle Discusses 50 Years of The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Clip: [00:00:00] One Sunday morning, the warm sun came up and pop out of the egg, came a tiny and very hungry
[00:00:11] Music: [00:00:11] Caterpillar.
[00:00:14] Ollie: [00:00:14] I expect you already recognize these words, but this is the opening of Eric Cole's book, the hungry Caterpillar. And you probably recognize it because it's one of the best-selling children's books of all time firmly holding its place on the bookshelves since its released in 1969.
[00:00:31] We will have our favorite and you probably have more than one you've read over and over again. One that if you just glanced it now would take you back three times to when you were a child, when you were pouring over the words and pictures in your pajamas, ready for sleep. But what happens when you revisit your favorite book?
[00:00:48] When you read those same words that you read many years ago, when you read that story through adult eyes, can I ever live up to how you remember it? Or is it taking on a whole new meaning altogether? Sometimes there's more to children's stories than first meets the eye. This is Paul finder, a show about storytelling
[00:01:12] children's stories. Play a key part in all of our childhoods from the brightly colored picture books, to the twisting turning tales that captivate our imagination for the parent. They're our secret weapon. That the cornerstone of bedtime routine, a moment of calm and quiet after a hectic day, but also a unique moment of connection, a chance for bonding and closeness that you can't find in the normal waking hours for children's stories told and embellished with bright, vivid illustrations, open entire worlds for them to stretch their imaginations that can be taken to out, to space a new world.
[00:01:48] They can meet different creatures, different people, different beings. They can speak to animals and converse with nature. And that's just where the story begins. The beauty of children's books is it unlocks another world that the child can grow and enhance themselves into the book may only be a few hundred words, but it lets them travel as far as their imaginations will take them.
[00:02:10] And it's more than just fun reading books from a young age, also boost intelligence, and it inspires imagination like no other medium can, these stories also play an important role in a child's development. Who could have put it better than Dr. Zeus, the more you read, the more things you will know, the more you learn, the more places you will go.
[00:02:31] Plenty of research has shown how pitcher books can help children make sense of the world around them and their place in it. It's also supports emotional development as well as language and communication skills. A child easily identifies with a strong characters within stories and develops empathy with them helping social development and how these characters deal with certain situations impacts a child's own morals and values.
[00:02:54] So these stories might seem simple, but that actually a crucial part of our childhood. So naturally many or most of the pitcher books you find on the shelves, carry some kind of moral message, some deeper meaning to help child make sense of difficult situations. They may experience a story with a societal moral meaning may give them life skills needed for real-world challenges.
[00:03:16] The hungry Caterpillar is a perfect example. It munches its way through all sorts of snacks, ice cream cake sausages, lots of which are pretty unhealthy. But finally, the thing that fills him up is a nice green leaf. This prissy simple, healthy eating message led to the American Academy of pediatrics.
[00:03:33] Along with bill Clinton's charity, providing over 17,000 copies of the book to pediatricians across the U S to support parents with healthy eating habits. And that's the only part of the story in the end, the Caterpillar cocoons, and then grows into a beautiful, bright butterfly. And you're using Eric Cole's own words
[00:03:52] Clip: [00:03:52] a long time, but I think it is a Burke of home.
[00:03:56] Children need hope you little insignificant Caterpillar can grow up into a beautiful. Butterfly and fly into the world with your talent. Will I ever be able to do that? Yes, you will. I think that is the appeal of that book. Well, I should know. I did the book after all
[00:04:24] Ollie: [00:04:24] the idea of growing up can be scary.
[00:04:25] It's a big unknown and beyond the grasp of imagination for most children. The Caterpillar, turning into a beautiful butterfly spread across two whole pages makes growing and maturity. Something magical. Something to look forward to. I mean, it's pretty impressive to carry messages like this over five decades in just 200 words.
[00:04:43] And the shelves are full of these stories packed with good moral messages. The Gruffalo is a modern day classic where the small mouth, outwits all the scary predators and monsters that the deep dark forest can throw between him and his tasty nut. It's a clever tale that Julia Donaldson says is all about using brains over brawn.
[00:05:01] These tales are all engaging stories that can be enjoyed at face value, but at the same time, carry important life lessons. Well, I
[00:05:09] Clip: [00:05:09] think they take the books far more seriously than adults. Yeah. If you read a novel, you read it, you enjoy it, you put it out and you go look for the next one. If a child picks up a book and likes it.
[00:05:24] That's not the end of it. You know, it's read at least four or five, sometimes 15 times and each time it's got to stand up to that. Uh, sooner or later, some of them finished by knowing them
[00:05:36] Ollie: [00:05:36] by heart doll from 1982, as children, we read, reread and read again until the corners are creased and the pages start falling out.
[00:05:46] We outgrow the simple pitch books and progressed to longer prose, but those books we devour at an early age become some of our earliest and fondest memories. They are the building blocks of our personality, and we look back on those favorites with a warm and huge, powerful sense of nostalgia. Rote doll is an author whose stories.
[00:06:03] Many of us have grown up with his books were filled to bursting point with rich characters, heroes that were loved and villains that were feared and despised. His use of made up words, brought the page to life and gave the writing its own unique feel. And with Quintin Blake's iconic sketched illustration style, it only added to the charm of the whole reading experience.
[00:06:23] And yet he's also one of the authors that often comes under fire with his books, which are in some case banned from shelves as children. We adore these stories, but as adults, when we revisit them, as we've seen with early picture books, sometimes there's more than meets the eye. Sometimes the nostalgia that draws us in transforms into more of a revelation and not always a positive one Dahl's BFG book about the big friendly giant was in some cases banned for references to cannibalism.
[00:06:51] Charlie. And the chocolate factory was challenged for racism with descriptions of implementers and promoting a poor philosophy of life. James and the giant peach has been banned in some schools in the U S for sexual innuendos, with a spider licking, her lips, profanities, and references to smoking and drinking as well as the negative depictions of authority figures.
[00:07:09] And Dell's writing style really doesn't shy away from the darker side of humor. And so draws a lot of criticism. Many of the books, feature adults as the villain who are often dealt with in pretty harsh or brutal ways, mostly by the children themselves like Matilda, who is essentially an abused child, neglected and mistreated.
[00:07:27] She very much sorts things out for herself and seeks a better life with miss honey. And so she should, and these are pretty strong themes for a young child to read about and not all adults in their stories that evil, but as is usually only the adults who abused their authority and get their comeuppance.
[00:07:42] But the thing is with the vast majority of Roald Dahl's writing, there is a darkness there it's packaged in humor and entertainment, but it's there. A subtle undercurrent that some will always find offensive and it's easy to see why, but really that's nothing new in children's literature. Don't understand them.
[00:07:59] A carb has always been present in children's stories. The brothers Grimm, Lord of the flies, hunger games, even for the youngest of ages, most nursery rhymes have had pretty dark undertones. Some reveal themselves as you get older, some aren't quite so clear.
[00:08:22] Clip: [00:08:22] fall town.
[00:08:24] Ollie: [00:08:24] The rash was a symptom of the black plague poses words to keep the smell away. And when it finally caught you, well, we all fall down. No one survived. A Bobo black sheep originally ended up with none for the little boy who cries down the lane. It was about rising taxes in the 13th century and how they were being split.
[00:08:42] One third to the crown one to the church and another to the farmer. The shepherd got nothing and black sheep were considered bad luck and useless as their will. Couldn't be died, Jack and Joel, some believe is all about the beheading of King Louis. The 16th of France who lost his crown, then his queen came tumbling down soon after him.
[00:09:01] These dark themes within children's stories also have a important cathartic function. If you've listened to our monster episodes, it's the same idea it's about facing your monsters and giving them full and giving children the means to defeat them in fiction. If not in real life, there's a theory that reading and writing children's books is a retreat from the disappointment of reality for adults, Dr.
[00:09:23] Joy, a director of studies at Homerton college identified recurring themes in children's classics that suggested that we treasure the boats that give us what the adult world lacks and what we wish it contained. We hold children's classics in such high regard because of nostalgia, but also because they represent a world that doesn't resemble the world that we live in.
[00:09:42] Looking back at Rodale, there was a huge amount of adversity in his life that he might draw from. He lost his older sister and father when he was just three years old and suffered pretty severe floggings of boarding school. As a young RAF pilot who came pretty close to her, dying in a crash landing in the Western desert.
[00:09:58] In the 1960s, his son suffered a brain injury. And two years later, his eldest daughter, Olivia died from a measles infection aged just seven and three years. After that his wife suffered a series of strokes. Yet the 1960s was also one of doll's most creative decades with James and the giant peach and Charlie and the chocolate factory among his publishings.
[00:10:18] Similarly, with the hungry Caterpillar, Eric Cole had a pretty difficult childhood. With his family repatriated to Germany shortly before the second world war, his father
[00:10:27] Ollie: [00:10:27] drafted into the German armed forces captured and held by the Soviet union for eight years until he returned. When Eric was 18, he was a broken war veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
[00:10:39] And Cole admitted to being attracted to vibrant hues and colors from painter tissue paper as a rejection of his dark childhood. But all these darker undercurrents to the stories of problem. If there's one thing we all know. It's that life isn't always straightforward and simple and neither are children.
[00:10:55] Children are complicated beings and just like adults, perhaps even more than adults, they experienced the full spectrum of emotions, happiness and sadness, joy and fear, lightened, dark books, light road dolls just reminds us that a child's world. Isn't always sunshine and smiles and happiness. The world through children's eyes is a scary place.
[00:11:14] Why not add some humor and entertainment to those moments in life that we don't always wish for. But sometimes most face to make them easier to deal with. But despite this darker side, one common theme across all rolled our stories is the promise of overcoming impossible circumstances. Charlie never gives up to the hopelessness of his family's poor status.
[00:11:32] Matilda teaches children, the importance of family and how to stay resilient under pressure. These are important lessons, whether a child or an adult, like any good stories, they let us escape into another world that has its adversities, but we can control them and we can overcome them. And whilst we don't all write children's books to deal with life's challenges.
[00:11:51] Many of us do the next best thing, which is reading them to a child as adults. We're too cynical. We look for sinister meanings where there are none personally. I doubt very much that the Gruffalo was an analogy for the corrupt nature of a celebrity and media that I've heard in some deep deconstruction of the book.
[00:12:08] If you've read this with a child, you simply see what they see. These books might be written by adults, but they're not written for adults. Great authors writing in a way that they know children want to read. You can quote
[00:12:19] Clip: [00:12:19] Oscar Wilde and say, when I am gone, I hope it will be sad. My students were scholars because my books were read.
[00:12:28] Ollie: [00:12:28] Children don't want simple. They don't want glossy happiness. They want rich stories that reflect the complexities of life in all of its fantastic light and developers. These stories are written to be a springboard for the child's imagination. They teach simple moral messages and entertaining along the way, but like all good books, the stories come to life in our own minds and imagination, and there's no stronger power in the world than the imagination of a
[00:12:53] Music: [00:12:53] child.