Sunday, 21 February 2016

The general and the particular - by Anne Booth

I've been thinking about how small things can stand for so much bigger ones, and how this is relevant for writing.

On twitter (as @Bridgeanne) I tend to RT a variety of things. I realise that sometimes there is a very strange pattern. If tweeting implied attributing value then this would be a problem: a tweet about refugees may be followed by a tweet about a lonely dog being put up for adoption, tweets about climate change may be followed by an appeal for help tracking down a lost teddy bear. Sometimes I feel a bit embarrassed when I see the order of my tweets. Obviously I don't think that a dog needing a home is equivalent to millions of refugees and their problems, or a toddler losing a teddy is equivalent to global warming, but somehow, I think, it feels right and hopeful to be aware of the world's  problems but also small individual dramas and needs and kindnesses.  I have a feeling that the world needs the tenderness and empathy shown in reuniting a teddy with its small owner, and that if such tenderness was truly valued as much as making money or being powerful then the world would be a better place. Stories about individuals - even individual animals or teddies - can carry great symbolism and give hope to communities, countries and the world.

When I feel that the problems of the world are overwhelming, and feel tempted to despair and also to forget to enjoy and appreciate and value my own individual place in the world,  I feel so grateful for simple narratives about teddies being returned, or abandoned animals being found a home. It reminds me of the goodness people are capable of. It reminds of the beauty of small things, the value of the particular. It gives me Hope.

And so do our stories. I love reading and writing children's books. I am so proud to be a children's author. I passionately believe that stories can make the world better in so many ways - and so libraries and trained librarians,  making these stories available to children, are vitally important.

This reminds me of 'Dogger' and this recent article by Clare Barker about it.  I have an M.A. in Children's Literature, and my dissertation back in 1995 was on the work of Shirley Hughes (I had no idea she would write so many more wonderful books in succeeding decades!) In 'Dogger' we have a simple story of a teddy being returned to a child - and how beautiful and important it is!

In my own work, two white dogs in 'Girl with a White Dog' were both individual pets and hopefully, stood for something much more in relation to the climate of 1930s Germany. I am really looking forward to Miriam Halahmy's forthcoming middle grade  book about pets in world war two - I know it will be a great story with lovely characters, both animal and human - and it will touch on a huge theme - war - but in a human- sized way. 'When war comes, who will save the animals?' is a good question - and benefits the humans who ask it.

Lastly here, is a video telling a true recent story about a cat being reunited with a refugee family. It worried me at first - would this be sentimental, or trite, or trivialise the trauma of families who need to be reunited with people, never mind pets? I wondered about the time and resources used to effect this reunion  - yet there is something so very beautiful and human-sized about this story, very much like the narratives we tell young children. Some times what is unbearable can be made bearable by a shift in perspective - an animal or a teddy can stand for so much more.


Denise Barnes Writer said...

I loved reading your latest post, Anne. I feel exactly the same. Animals, and yes, even toys being reunited with their owners is so wonderful. Not at all trivial. The story of the little white cat being reunited with its owners after going through such amazing journeys was fantastic. Sitting here blinking back the tears. I will get that video circulated.

I'm very proud too that you're a children's author. I could never write for children (I don't have any) but am very keen that they should read while they're as young as possible so they're in the habit.

Lots of luck for you and your books.

Anne Booth said...

Thank you so much Denise. x I think it doesn't matter if you have children or not - it is whether you remember being a child and also if you love reading and writing children's books! Best of luck with your own great writing and thanks for reading this post.


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Miriam Halahmy said...

Lovely post Anne and how kind to give The Emergency Zoo such a nice piece of attention.