1. CedricMiddorick
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    CedricMiddorick Member

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    Theme Can we have child abuse in a children's book

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CedricMiddorick, Jan 29, 2015.

    Hi. I'm writing a book atm. Is it okay to have child abuse in it: the main character (12) is attacked by his stepdad. This time the stepdad goes too far: he bangs the kid's head against the wall multiple times, ultimately killing him. (This happens in the first chapter; when he's dead, the boy ends up in a new world where his adventures take place)

    I don't know which target audience I'll pick if I send this book to the publishers (children's book or teen/young adult) but I want it to appeal to anyone above the age of ten. Would the child abuse be inappropriate for a young audience?

    Also, there's a character who's the main character's friend in this new world. They're an actor but they also dress up as a woman (they act as their own love interest). Kinda similar to how pantomimes have men acting as women. But later books imply that this character actually likes the cross-dressing. Is this okay for the young audience?

    Finally, the CAPTCHA puzzle that we need to complete when signing up to this forum was a lot of fun :-D
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If it's YA/Teen, I don't think you'll have a problem. YA/Teen novels deal with child abuse, murder, suicide, rape, drugs, and any other subject matter that might impacts teens and young adults in real life. I'm assuming for a teen novel you're looking at around ages 13 and up (I've read in some places that Teen is considered 10 an up; I don't know how well this kind of violence will stand in a book for ten year olds. I believe there are books for younger audiences that deal with death, but if the narrative depicts this kind of violent killing it may be problematic in terms of the younger end of the age range if you're starting at ten years of age. How much you're showing and how you're showing it would likely be a factor).
     
  3. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    I'm a trained primary teacher (5-11 year olds) and have to admit, I'm not sure the story would be suitable for the 'children's' section exactly, but rest assured - primary schools bring in 'older' books ie teen/YA for their advanced readers so young children (you mentioned ten year olds) would still have access to your story if it was written into an older bracket.
    As for the theme - violent and bloody murder is fascinating to kids and although abuse is always 'provocative' I think you'd have more issues if you wanted to include sexual themes, rather than violent ones (I know, it's bizarre - but think about this: Homer Simpson physically abuses Bart pretty much every episode and it's seen as funny. If he crept into Lisa's room at night, it would NOT get on TV. It's no okay, but that's the status quo!)

    Cross dressing would be a great theme and may buy you a place in high school English syllabuses, as gender issues is a hot topic culturally and this could be a great resource to help teach/supplement discussion.

    I say, go for it dude x
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    that sounds pretty unique - and brave too to approach such subjects for younger audiences. I think you won't have a problem if it's for YA/teen. Any younger and it might be an issue. I remember in school, one of the books from the school library had this final twist at the end of the book: that the MC you've followed all this time, the girl who ran away from home, ran away because she was her father's whore. And yup, they used the word "whore" - I remember because I'd never come across that word before and had to look it up lol. Nothing graphic was ever depicted, but the fact that that was the premise does show you that rape and abuse are definitely topics discussed amongst teens in school.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Child abuse is a common theme in children's books. Cinderella is a classic example, but stories like Dumbo and Pinocchio also have child abuse themes in them. They are however, more subtle than it would be to show a murder or physical beatings.

    If I recall, the original stories like Cinderella and Snow White have more gory stuff in them, but the times were different a century or more ago. Disney cleaned up those stories before making their more well known versions.
     
  6. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with everyone else. Classifying it in the children's section could prove problematic. You'd have to explain it a certain way to make it easy to understand this boy's father killed him without getting too graphic. But YA, absolutely. Get as graphic as you want. lol I've seen way worse in YA, so it wouldn't be so limiting.

    Also.... There's a CAPTCHA puzzle at sign up? o_O How long have I been here that I don't remember that? lol I kinda wanna make a new account now just to see what it's about.... :p
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Pinocchio is essentially about human-trafficking if you think about it. Even the Disney version was pretty scary I thought.

    And the original Brothers Grimm Cinderella - the older sisters chopped off parts of their feet to wear the glass slippers, and the prince actually took the sisters to be Cinderella. It was only once they left the house there were these pigeons singing, "There's blood in her shoe" that made the prince turn back and find the real Cinderella.
     
  8. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    In Alice in Wonderland, that mean walrus eats all of those poor baby clams. :(

    There's another classic fairytale that had a really dark ending, but for the life of me, I can't remember it.

    Edited for content: But unfortunately, in this day and age, parents have a stick up their butt about such small things, you really gotta be careful with children's books. It could be very well received (like Harry Potter) or it could be a massive failure. It's all about how you write it. :)
     
  9. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    Yeah some of the old fairy tales are incredibly nasty!! Fairly certain Sleeping Beauty ended up having two children while she's out in the original and there's Donkeyskin where the king decides to romantically pursue his own daughter.

    I think the idea is really interesting though, would very much depend on how you write it. Wouldn't have a problem with the cross-dressing either.
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's from Alice in Wonderland!? I've never actually read it, but I have a book of children's verse about a walrus eating all the baby clams!

    @Lancie - I think Sleeping Beauty is meant to be quite creepy actually. The prince has sex with her in her sleep or something. Donkeyskin sounds creepy too.
     
  11. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    It was in the cartoon movie. I saw it as a child... And it traumatized me. I've hated Alice in Wonderland ever since. :unsure:
     
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  12. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    I'm an elementary teacher too, and I would say that the scene of abuse you describe would be way too traumatic for a young child, especially if the victim got killed. Granted, these things do happen in life and some kids have been through a lot, but unless you could make very sure there was SERIOUS closure at the end, I don't think I would even attempt it. With a serious theme like that you run the risk of making it gratuitous or just a mindless act of violence that a child of ten couldn't possibly rationalize. If it's teens you're talking about (or even older teens, maybe) it would be received a little better, but you'd still have to make sure there was a reason for such a scene, and a strong resolution at the end.

    Also, I don't know that this kind of violence can be compared to Pinocchio, etc. Though there are some scary moments in those movies, you're talking about violence within a family here, something that hits very close to home in a setting modern children have experienced (a blended family).

    That's just my opinion. Take it for what it's worth.:meh:
     
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