Friday, 28 November 2008

Kids Stuff.

I love this show! It's called Pocoyo and it's a Japanese influenced 3d cartoon for pre-schoolers. Originally from Spain; It's simple, well animated, utterly charming and voiced in the UK by Stephen Fry. It's easy for us grown-ups to grumble through our rose-tinted glasses about how the kids cartoons we grew up with were far superior to this modern rubbish, but I wish I'd had Pocoyo as a kid. Watch some.
Click here to see Pocoyo rock out!
Click here to see Pocoyo race!
Sorry, I have sudden childish moments. Icecream!

Well, it's real late and I'm waiting for something to scan, but watching kids TV has got me thinking about children's stories in general.

There seem to be two conflicting schools of thought on "what makes a good kids story". On the one hand, escapism has always been the long standing axiom. If you can make a kid think "wow, I wish I was there" or "wow, I wish I was him/her" you're onto a winner. Magical worlds and fairy tales and magnificent adventures are always what a kid is going to connect to. Take something that they can't do, remove the parents, and then let them do it.

On the other hand there's the more down to earth story, where you manufacture a situation in which a group of children have adventures in a very real world setting. The railway children is a good example of this. The idea here is that the reader is thinking more along the lines of "I could be him/her" and the charm lies in finding characters and adventures that you could actually replicate, rather than magical impossibilities. Here the limitations of the real world are almost what makes the story.

Obviously the very best children's books (Harry Potter, His Dark Materials) tick all of the above. Harry Potter is a good example, as he is both in a down-to-earth situation (school) and a magical fantasy world. (wizard school!)
However after thinking on this for a while I arrived at the conclusion that really both points of view are the same. The railway children (even for kids of the actual time period it was written) is really conjuring up the same sentiment as The Phoenix and the Carpet or Five Children and It. (to stick with the Nesbits)
That sentiment being: "I wish I was that kid".

Whether it's the wish to fly and use magic, the wish that mysterious crimes happened in your town with more regularity, or the wish that your friends would stop tormenting the neighbour's cat long enough to all go in search of adventure, that longing is really what keeps you reading. Whether the writer provokes this using the character, the world they inhabit or the journeys they have is up to them.

It's pretty obvious, I know, but I like to write these things down. Actually, I guess it's probably a good rule of thumb for all writing, even for adults and especially for comics.


nana said...

Haha I would've loved this show as a kid!

I used to be a big fantasy reader, and I've always been a big fan of fantastical stories. Personally I think I enjoyed following and being with the characters rather than being the character, maybe it was safer that way. :)

Even fiction for adults play on the whole "I wish I was him/her" I think. You always hear how people should be able to relate to characters, maybe it's even more efficient to make them want to be the character. Although I can imagine conflict in interest if the character does something you don't approve of. :)