Life is hard. We hurt and struggle. We fight unfair battles and suffer consequences we didn’t cause, along with all the consequences we brought down on our own heads.
We try to protect children from the hard parts of life, but it’s inevitable that they will grow up and find out like we all did … life is hard.
That’s part of the parents’ job, of course, to help their children navigate the tough spots in life. We’re not likely going to produce some fabulous tome that will rock their world and singlehandedly show children the way things are.
Most children’s books are about the fun parts of life, but we do them a disservice if we don’t occasionally broach the hard parts, too, and get real with them.
Of the books I’ve illustrated, several of the authors have written about bullying, Bullies on the Reef by Sid Marlin, Christian Critters by William Burkhalter, and Lift by Amy Burgard. One author wrote about the death of a sibling, My Big Brother is in Heaven Now, by Janice Sampson. These are tough subjects even for adults, much less children, but all of these authors did a great job.
But that’s the wonder of being a creative who writes/draws for children … taking the hard parts of life and making them a bit more understandable … at least as understandable as they can ever be. Because the hard parts of life are not understandable. They are ridiculous and painful and even the adults are left asking, Why?! And we all know there’s no ready answers for that.
So how much more confusing is it for children when they go through these things … death, divorce, illness, natural disasters ... the inexpressibles in life are not always those overwhelming good feelings. Sometimes they are the overwhelming rip-your-guts-out kind of feelings. Hard when you’re 60, but how about when you’re 6?
So for anyone out there reading this who might be considering writing a children’s book on one of these tough issues, I say, Go for it!
As a creative, God placed inside you the means to express the inexpressible, to explain the unexplainable. And only you can get it done in your own unique way, which will uniquely speak to your unique target audience. God loves variety and there are as many ways to express a subject as there are people on the planet. So never think your own way won’t work if it’s a little off beat. It will speak to the readers out there who are also a little off beat.
The three books I mentioned above about bullying, all have their own way of broaching and treating the subject. A lot of that depends on the age and reading level of the reader … but all kids at any age need to learn about that and other hard parts of life.
Books like this are a great tool for parents and teachers who are walking with children through hard places or even before the hard places come. These books can be conversation starters in a safe space for children to explore their own fears and feelings about the subject or real-life events. When kids can talk these things out it will help them sort out their own thoughts and opinions about these subjects, and take some of the scary away.
Of course, the scary will never go away completely. We won’t be giving them all the answers to life’s hard places. But we can be part of helping by walking through the hard places with them.
That’s what they need most … not escaping the hard places, but knowing how to navigate through the hard places. The inside things come to the outside, and they feel a little more connected and secure in their ability to navigate through their world.
And another creative has done their job and fulfilled their purpose!