Smoking and children’s fiction is a tricky mixture; with a cigar chomping scarecrow recently appearing in Julia Donaldson’s book The Scarecrow’s Wedding, there has been ongoing debate around the subject with some people insisting that smoking simply has no place in children’s fiction.
Should Smoking Appear In Children’s Books?
So what is the right approach when it comes to the most innocent in our society? Is it right to simply pretend that smoking in all its forms doesn’t exist? Or should the subject be introduced just as other tricky issues are?
Looking back at fiction from the past, it’s clear that most skilled authors such as Enid Blyton, used smoking as a clear indicator of a “baddie”. Julian, Dick, George and Ann never mentioned Uncle Quentin having a sneaky ciggie in his study did they? Nope…smoking was always what the crooked antiques dealer did…or the dodgy salesman…it was always painted as a “Bad Thing”.
The Smoker Was Always Portrayed As The Villian
Going back even further it’s evident that smoking was always seen as a somewhat dirty habit and E Nesbitt certainly illustrated that point in her books. Dickens too had smoking pegged as something which belonged to the people from the seedier side of life.
The point is that while children are far from stupid when it comes to sussing out adults and their bad habits, they do need all aspects of life to be tackled in their fiction…both good and bad in order for them to make sense of the world. Children’s fiction has in recent years become far more realistic and has looked at such difficult issues as divorce, disability and mental health; Jacqueline Wilson has tackled all this and more in her hugely popular books and children lap it up. They love to read about good and bad, positive and negative in equal measure and to simply pretend that smoking doesn’t exist is as foolish as it is neglectful.
The scarecrow in Julia Donaldson’s book gets his come-uppance for smoking when he accidently sets his bride-to-be on fire! That’s as clear a lesson that under-eights need. Smoking is bad and will hurt not only the smoker but also the people around them. Put simply, children’s books expand and explain the world and that means everything in it; smoking included.