Written by: Karim. A, director of Tiny Owl Publishing
Yesterday Delaram and I attended a thought-provoking event on “picture book taboos” held by Children’s Books Circle at the Penguin Random House offices in London . There was an excellent panel and you can follow the discussion on their twitter account. Here, I wanted to add some points:
1. We shouldn’t underestimate children. They can understand and even cope with the reality (mostly) better than adults. The most important thing is we, as adults, would like to protect our vulnerable children from all harms, but sometimes we cannot change the reality. In this situation, the best way to deal with reality is not just deleting the fact, but to handle it in a way that children can comprehend. Death is one of these topics. Everybody dies. Picture books are the best means to explain mortality and death to the children in a most understandable and even beautiful way. In such a situation, nothing can do the job better than a picture book.
2. Picture books have no geographical borders, particularly in this globalised era. Many people travel with their children from deprived regions to places that might bring a better future for them. In a cosmopolitan city such as London picture books should embrace the experiences of all children with different ethnic backgrounds and cultures and bring them closer together.
3. Taboos are not necessarily universal. At least they don’t have the same instances everywhere. There are different taboos depending on the culture, place, and time. However, in a globalised era, we need to open an international dialogue about it to tackle it, to come to a better conclusion, to decrease the level of conflicts, to prevent more violence, to reach a bette life, to increase our quality of human civilisation, to put a step forward.
4. When we accept there are no taboos, the efficiency of picture books are maximized. Of course there are some professional matters, like the quality of the text and illustrations, but, more than that, when there are no taboos, there is no limitation imposed on a picture book beyond the possibility of rejection by the society. Picture books are the best means for teaching as well as helping children in hard situations to face the reality and tackle the difficulties.
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