No more happily ever afters

No more happily ever afters

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I have a question today. But before that listen to this story that I shared with the children of The Book Club this Sunday. I’ll keep it short I promise.

The story (The Book Keeper)

… is set in the year 2042. It talks of a scenario where books and writing are extinct. ibooks, laptops, computers, tablets and phones are everywhere. However, there is this one poor Bangladeshi boy, Santanu, who possesses a book (A Bengali adaptation of Matilda). He doesn’t understand the Bengali script so he uses it as a diary, address book, notepad and a scribble pad all in one.

One day the Internet crashes. The parents are angry and the children, restless. They are forced to play outdoors and stumble upon a dilapidated building which happens to be a deserted library. They start to love the place. They read, run around and learn to make up stories. Then one day the Internet comes back and the kids all disappear again back to their electronic world leaving Santanu alone but happy with the books. You can read the full story here. (While you’re there you might like to check out the site. It has some amazing stories from around the world).

The question

So tell me now, does the ending bother you? It did bother me. Would you have thought of altering it before you shared the story with the kids?

I was sorely tempted to do that. I’ve tampered with stories earlier, mostly the so called ‘fairytales’, when the kids were younger. I did away with the gory and the unpleasant, evening out the rough patches making it perfect as it could get.

This time however I let it be. For one, this ending might be more near the truth than the one I have in mind, two – changing it would amount to trolling someone else’s story, three – maybe it’s time to let the kids figure out the situation for themselves. I sure was curious to see their reaction – would they accept it like it’s inevitable or ‘normal’ (Yikes!!) or would they feel saddened like I was?

What the kids had to say

The kids completely loved it – the whole story. There were exclamations of ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’ at the idea of all kids having phones and tabs. But there also were ‘haws’ at the idea of no books. They accepted the story in a way more positive manner than what I’d ever imagined. Rather than a black and white approach they found many angles to it. Most said they liked the ending for Santanu’s sake. They liked that Santanu could enjoy being by himself with just books for company. Some said this wasn’t ‘the end’ at all and that finally the kids got bored of their computers after getting a taste of the good stuff and came back.

It’s such joy to watch children think and talk and discuss. Yet one more time I was made to realise how I underestimate the way they think.

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25 Replies to “No more happily ever afters”

  1. Good call. When it comes to literature, I obsess about whether they are ready for a particular book or not, but once I give it to them, it is theirs to read and internalise as they see fit.

  2. The story is indeed disturbing… Why go to 2042? Now only children and WE are so like that…
    It will be curse to live without books… not playing and meeting up with family and friends in person..
    Thanks for sharing

  3. Interesting questions there. I wouldn't mess with anyone else's story, but I am glad that the children were exposed to and enjoyed the real books. It will be a sad day in this world when they disappear for good! Hopefully, not in my lifetime.

  4. I am thrilled that my grandson loves books and I can't imagine a world without them as much as it seems to be leaning in that direction. 2042 or sooner. What a great idea to share with the children

  5. I loved the story. And the ending, well, I definitely loved what the children took out of it. We do tend to underestimate them, don't we? The story also made me feel a little guilty as we've gone the electronic way so much, just because its more convenient.

    I love your book club posts. I love the way you handle them! I wish I had the patience to do something like this. And also wish that daughter of mine still liked to listen to stories she's just too impatient to hear someone read to her

    1. Thanks Smitha. We have a problem that's quite the reverse. H and N like to listen to stories so much that they won't read!!! Oh and that compliment on how I handle them is not really justified. You should see the chaos at the meetings! The only heartening thing is that they keep coming back so I guess they musn't be disliking the club!

  6. Definitely food for thought! And I love your book club and the work you put into it!!
    Yes, I did worry about this too when the kids were younger but then I remembered that I had read through similar stuff and survived :).

  7. I'm torn between letting children know the truth while keeping the dreams alive for them. Sometimes though, I think we forget how resilient children can be. Sure, we need to read age-appropriate things to them; yet, we can educate and discuss things further. A lady at my book club read Harry Potter with her 6 year old son. He is intellectually gifted and enjoyed the books but at the same time was disturbed in book 4 when Voldemort kills Cedric for no reason. It required a lot of discussion and explanation of good versus evil and the like.

    This website sounds good…thanks for sharing! 🙂

  8. I loved ther story because it talks about reality without sugar coating it. I think we need more stories like that one, to be honest. Oh, I don't mean we take away happy endings, but every now and then kids also need to hear these stories, the ones they can relate to and then make informed decisions about the same. I am glad you did not 'tamper' with the end, Tulika. But then again, I know you wouldn't 🙂

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