Bad books for kids

The 5 Worst Books for Your Children will depress, confuse and mislead them, writes Bonnie Ramthun, a mother and author in PJ Lifestyle. Ramthun warns parents against The Island of the Blue Dolphins, which is very bleak, Monster, which includes a homosexual gang rape, The Red Pony (beloved horse dies gruesomely), and Phillip Pullman’s atheistic Dark Materials series. She concedes the books are well written, but thinks they’re not suitable for kids.

My daughter, an avid reader, disliked Blue Dolphins for the reasons Ramthun gives. I don’t she liked The Red Pony either.

I enjoyed the first book in Pullman’s series, The Golden Compass, which is suitable for intelligent children. (A great deal will go over their heads, but they won’t care.) The second book was much darker and potentially nightmare-inducing. The third book, dominated by Pullman’s atheist theology, was a hard slog.

Ramthun’s least favorite book is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, which she concedes “your child will devour in delight.”
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“Nihilism and despair (is) packaged in such a charming way that children and their loving parents will laugh and enjoy and only wonder later why their stomachs feel queasy and strange,” she writes.

Orphaned siblings Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire have thrilling adventures. But, “at the end of each book Count Olaf, the villain, has successfully removed the children from a loving home, having killed the person the children have just learned to love, and has turned them back into orphans.”

Ramthun thinks kids identify with Count Olaf, rather than the Baudelaires, who survive, barely, in “abject misery.”

“No child looks at Violet and says: ‘Look how beneficial it is to study and be smart and invent things.’ No. The lesson is that no matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work, the bad guys are always smarter, and will come out on top because evil pays.”

Do kids really root for Count Olaf? I have to think they cheer for the brave, resourceful Baudelaire siblings. But, after I’d read the first two books, I didn’t want to know what new rotten things were going to happen to Violet, Klaus and Sunny.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Ruth Joy says:

    I must stand up for A Series of Unfortunate Events. And what a vocabulary builder to book. I don’t even mind that the picture book he did with Maira (?) Kalman– Ten Words– teaches the meaning of despondent.

  2. Peace Corps says:

    My 11 y.o. did devour this series (A Series of Unfortunate Events), giggling all the way. I tried reading 2 of the books, but didn’t see the humor in them like he did. I found them tiresome, but didn’t find anything in them that I thought would scar my son for life. He likes adventure books, and most of them do have some people dying in them.

  3. cranberry says:

    All of my children have read A Series of Unfortunate Events. They were sad when they reached the end of the series–because they enjoyed it. Either they’re made of sterner stuff than Ms. Ramthun’s image of The Ideal Child, or they’re blessed with a sense of humor.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    I wonder if Bonnie Ramthun has actually read all 13 books in A Sequence of Unfortunate Events. Her points about the series make me think that she either (a) read the first few and then gave up, (b) has a terrible memory, or (c) is going from someone elses description.

     

    Bonnie Ramthun: “At the end of each book Count Olaf, the villain, has successfully removed the children from a loving home, having killed the person the children have just learned to love, and has turned them back into orphans.”
    No, not at the end of *each* book. About half way through the series the Baudelaire orphans stop getting guardians at all (because they are on the run from the police).

     

    Bonnie Ramthun: “In each book Violet and Clause come up with a brilliant plan to escape him, or to defeat him, but they always just barely manage to escape, and usually through some plot twist that doesn’t even come from their ideas.”
    Well … except for all the times that success/escape/whatever *IS* through their own efforts. Such as in book #1 (Clause finds a legal twist), book #2 (Violet picks the lock of Olaf’s briefcase), book #3 (Sunny uses her teeth to expose Olaf to Mr. Poe), …

     

    Bonnie Ramthun: “Ask a child who loves the series and they’ll tell you that Count Olaf is a great guy.”
    Except for all the kids who are fairly clear that he is the BAD buy. Like mine.

     

    Bonnie Ramthun: “He [Count Olaf] never gets his heart broken, he is never sad, dejected, or lonely.”
    And here is where I *really* wonder if Bonnie actually read the entire series. Part of the more interesting part towards the end is where it is clear that Count Olaf has suffered losses in his childhood that are every bit as bad as the Baudelaires losing their parents. Additionally, it is clear that Olaf loves Kit, but that his relationship with her is over.

     

    Bonnie Ramthun: “The lesson is that no matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work, the bad guys are always smarter, and will come out on top because evil pays. That is the overall message of these books.”
    Because Olaf being dead at the end of the series and the Baudelaires being alive *REALLY* hammers home the message that the bad guys come out on top because evil pays.

  5. “Series of Unfortunate Events” wasn’t around when I was a kid, but I read them as an adult. I found them very funny, and I would have also found them so as a kid – I understood over-the-top humor and exaggeration, and that’s what those books are about.

    Also the fact that the kids use their skills to survive and outwit the Count….And anyway, the kids DO “win” in the end….

    I remember my dad seeing me reading “The Hobbit” when I was 8, and he asked me if I didn’t find the book “too scary.” I thought he was nuts. I admit, now, rereading it as an adult, some of the trapped-underground scenes made me uncomfortable, but I think most kids are a lot more resilient than adults give them credit for being – perhaps they are even more resilient than the adults.

    • Ruth Joy says:

      My 5th graders read The Hobbit and loved it. Now there’s a great message about good triumphing over not just bad guys, but over evil.

    • Genevieve says:

      I was terrified of the Hobbit (book and movie) and I stopped reading about when gollum appears. It took me to adulthood to actually read the whole book.
      I was kind of a scardy cat.

  6. D's Squirrel Food says:

    Heaven forfend a child read about atheism! Of course, His Dark Materials are not atheistic books… they have a god in them.

    • I loved the first two books. The third was so disappointing I never read any of them again. Pullman used his story as a sledgehammer for his Message. It was downright painful.

  7. I don’t think I have ever read a worse children’s book than Rainbow Fish.