Children's literature is filled with a variety of interesting characters, some who can be utterly unrealistic like perhaps Ms.Trunchbull in Matilda or can be someone like Darrell Rivers in Malory Towers, who is easy to connect with. But what role do these characters play in making a story book a delightful read for young readers? Read on to find out from the young readers themselves.
If you have read Roald Dahl's Matilda you might agree that it is the offbeat characters in this book that make it a delightful read. For one, Matilda herself is someone who is literally out of the box in terms of how a child generally is. She learnt to read on her own and was reading extensively by a very early age. To complement her character, her parents in the book are also out of the ordinary, parents who encourage their daughter to watch TV all day instead of picking up a book to read. The first thought that comes in any reader's mind, must be in the lines of a puzzled "Eh?" Right there Roald Dahl manages to catch their attention and take them on an imaginative trip to a world that is far from reality. Case in point, no school principal picks girls by their pigtails and tosses them up in the air or force a child to stuff himself with a whole cake as punishment. These characters are meant to be unreal for the sake of attracting attention and entertainment. This is something that children understand very well.
This book came up as a recommendation for our activity of the month which is a week long sharing of book recommendations based on what one has read over the month. This month we decided to go on a "Favourite Character Hunt" and Matilda came up on the list. The child recommending the book on account of her character was excited to share how much he enjoyed this book because of not just Matilda but because of the unorthodox principal, Miss Trunchbull. He picked scenes from the book to illustrate his fondness for the story. As he shared information about his favourite scenes, the others in the group who had watched the movie and not read the book, jumped in with the details they could remember, thus making it a lively discussion. At the end, a few of those who hadn't read or watched the movie, asked to take screenshots of the cover on display to share with their parents, to get a copy to read it by themselves. What a way for a book to get marketed! :))
Discussions around favourite characters also led to other revelations
For someone who loves reading comics/graphic novels, Saranya* (name changed for sake of privacy) found the idea of reading a "thick" story book far from tempting. She found ways to use the same graphic novel series, Phoebe and the Unicorn, to fit into every activity of the month. Phoebe and the Unicorn Series is an amazing graphic novel series with entertaining plots and plenty of new words to learn in a fun way. (To know more about why reading comics/graphic novels isn't necessarily detrimental, read Are We Underestimating The Power of Reading Comics?) This month, however she announced that she wasn't going to do the same graphic novel series but something new. She then pulled out Enid Blyton's Malory Towers Series and introduced us to her favourite character, Darrell Rivers, saying that she is a naughty girl who loves having fun at the boarding school that she studies in. Would the book have been considered less interesting if Darrell Rivers was an ordinary person who went about her life like anyone else? Perhaps yes, if the plot had some conflict coming up sooner or later. But in Saranya's case, she revealed that she saw a lot of herself in Darrell Rivers and to live through situations that she can't experience in real life made the book even more gripping.
But in Saranya's case, she revealed that she saw a lot of herself in Darrell Rivers and to live through situations that she can't experience in real life made the book even more gripping.
Deriving satisfaction in seeing a villainous character getting beaten or is there a different way to look at it?
Roald Dahl's picture book The Enormous Crocodile came up for discussion when one of the young readers described the crocodile as a hungry animal wanting to eat children. Utterly disgusting as that sounds, the reader who brought this book as a recommendation, asked the others to hear him out before judging the story. He took much pleasure in describing how different animals came up with ingenious ways to keep the crocodile away from the children and finally in the end, he was sent off to be burnt like a sausage in the sun. The crocodile in the story is the centre of attraction and is a despicable character. That choice of a character and the build up in the story that leads to a grand victory of goodness over evil delivered a sense of immense satisfaction and joy in the group. That however didn't last long as one young reader looked troubled. She said what happened to the crocodile in the end was sad and incorrect. The others turned around looking confused. She said, "What the crocodile was trying to do was wrong. However, sending him off to the sun to be burnt is taking it too far. There is little difference between him and the others. There should have been a different way to make him realise that what he was trying to do was wrong. By sending him to the sun, he did not have a chance to learn and change his ways."
She said, "What the crocodile was trying to do was wrong. However, sending him off to the sun to be burnt is taking it too far. There is little difference between him and the others. There should have been a different way to make him realise that what he was trying to do was wrong. By sending him to the sun, he did not have a chance to learn and change his ways."
What is easy to do is to think about what the obvious moral of this story is. What is interesting is to take that moral and try seeing it from a different light. It changes everything so much and leaves a lasting impression on the readers. It also enforces the fact that every matter has multiple perspectives which may be right in their own way. Discovering them makes learning through discussions even more joyful.
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