Black, White and Shades of Gray in Children’s Literature

This guest blog post comes from author V. A. Jeffrey. In the post she mentions that her latest book, The Lady Moons, will be released in February 2012. It is now available.

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Navigating The Gray

I have a new novella out in my children’s fantasy series, Secret Doorway Tales and I’m having a lot of fun writing this series of books. The newest book in the series, due out in February is called The Lady Moons (Secret Doorway Tales)

While the last three stories were what I would call straightforward adventure stories, the fourth book is slightly different in that it deals with dreams and gray areas and what these can mean and how a child might feel about them.

The other stories deal with issues of black and white, which is a good thing. That’s usually how kids see the world. Things are either Right or Wrong and I believe that much in life falls on either one of these sides. However, in life we also encounter quite a few gray areas and we have to learn how to navigate them and understand them, even if we don’t always feel comfortable with them. I believe that children encounter gray area issues as adults do and they must learn how to confront them.

I felt that dreams would be a great setting for exploring this issue because in dreams what we see isn’t always what we see. Things aren’t immediately clear; some dreams we may never understand. Ever had a dream where nothing made sense?

We’ve all experienced that, if we can still remember them. But some dreams do have meaning. Usually it’s a reflection of some past experience or a string of events in our life that should be dealt with. The protaganist in the story, an eight year old girl named Anne, is used to seeing things as Right or Wrong and she encounters allies and villains that neatly fit into her view of the world. And she isn’t wrong or mistaken about that but in The Lady Moons, she encounters a fairy queen who is unusually difficult for her to understand.

Fairy queens are rather elusive by nature but this one especially so. This fairy queen behaves strangely to her and says things that she finds disturbing, though she doesn’t actually come off as evil. Anne doesn’t know what to do with these feelings and she isn’t sure what value this experience has for her own life.

She also meets other creatures on this journey that aren’t what she immediately assumes them to be. Things are resolved but not in quite the way that you’d expect if you’ve read the previous books in the series.

That is not to say that the book is dark and scary. In fact, I think that The Winter Wolves is the darkest book of the series to date and the ending for that book was triumphant. This book ends on a more subdued note.

To be honest, I never thought I would be writing children’s middle grade fiction, it just sort of happened as a happy accident. With children’s fiction you can explore important themes without getting down into despair, deep darkness or adult themes.

You can still keep things light, inject a sense of innocence, wonder and awe in the writing. Writing these books brings me back to when I was a kid, reading some of my favorite stories, like the Narnia series and the Ramona Quimby series.

With the right kind of book, a child can be transported to another place, all the while, learning how to navigate the one he/she actually lives in.

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Matthew says:

Thanks to V.A. Jeffrey for providing a detailed blog post which really makes us think as all good literature should. I like books for children that make them think about issues as well.

Ms. Jeffrey is definitely on to something with the idea that children are faced with ethical dilemmas and it is to their advantage to have previously considered the concepts of right versus wrong and shades of gray.

Also, once again, I have to complement the cover art on a novel. We have been very lucky here to be featuring work lately from talented writers as well as talented cover artists.

The Lady Moons (Secret Doorway Tales) definintely fits into that category.

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