I've worked with kids and reading and writing for nearly a quarter of a century, and the issue of "age appropriate" books is often in the foreground. This leaves me torn between Daryl and Zoe in this cartoon.
I sympathize with his horror over discovering the PG-13, perhaps R, level of book in which his daughter is immersed.
I am also delighted she's immersed in reading, and I wonder how much his ripping pages out of this particular book will shield her from the stuff he wishes she weren't aware of, a point the punchline makes, as it opens a two-part "perhaps you should pay more attention" category.
1. Perhaps you should pay more attention to the things your kid is taking in.
Granted, it's harder in the age of Netflix and YouTube than it was when the kids had to go to a theater or rent a movie from Blockbuster, but it's still your job as a parent, and that also involves being aware of what they're reading.
2. But perhaps you should pay more attention, too, to where your kids are really at, as opposed to where you think they ought to be.
The gag in today's comic is that the horse has already been stolen, the toothpaste is out of the tube, the train has left the station and, however you phrase it, Zoe is comfortable with a genre of fiction I refer to as "smoochy vampires," though in this case it's "smoochy time travelers."
He should certainly be aware of what she's taking in, and he's not required to allow her access to things just because they are popular among her peers. There's nothing wrong with having values in your family that aren't congruent with everyone else's.
Though, as seen in Saturday's Pajama Diaries, it can leave you and your kid vulnerable to social pressure.
But, however you draw those lines, they have to be drawn with regard to Zoe's actual needs and interests, not with regard to an idealized fantasy version of Zoe.
This isn't anything new: I'm reminded of the King in James Thurber's classic 1943 children's book, "Many Moons," who desperately tries to hide the moon from his daughter because he's afraid she'll be traumatized to learn that the silver moon around her neck is not the real moon after all.
Ditto with Zoe: The answer is not to hide the moon but to reveal the kid.
Maybe she's wiser and less fragile than you think, in which case you should encourage her wisdom and resiliency, because it will serve her well in all the things from which you cannot shield her.
And trust me, not only is it impossible to keep her from looking up and seeing the moon, but, as the King came to realize, none of the theoretical ways of accomplishing that would be good for her, either.
Kate Messner is someone I first encountered when she was a reporter, and later when she was a middle-school literature teacher in whose classroom I spoke, and later still when she began being published as a writer of books for that age group.
Her books are quite popular, but she ran into a problem with her newest title, "The Seventh Wish," because the young protagonist has an older sibling who is addicted to opiods.
This got her dis-invited from a school presentation 24 hours before it was scheduled to happen, despite the fact that she had told them what the book was about and provided an advance copy.
And despite the fact that, no matter what they may wish their kids were like, they have plenty of kids in whose families drug problems exist.
Worse, they also returned the copies of the novel they had ordered for their library.
And, in the category of "modified happy endings," she was re-booked for an appearance at the local library, and fans of her work and foes of censorship chipped in to make sure at least some kids in the community could get a free copy of the book
She's certainly not the first or the only author who has had a book banned, but what makes her responses so worth reading is that she had tackled the subject well before it landed on her own shoulders, or, at least, on her own shoulders as a writer.
Here's how she explained it seven years ago, when she was still writing on the side and spending her days in the classroom.
And I've long enjoyed the juxtaposition of her wise take on assigned summer reading lists with my own less diplomatic commentary on books people think everyone else should read.
Here's part of what Kate-the-Teacher used to tell parents:
We respect your right to help your own child choose reading material, and we ask that you respect the rights of other parents to do the same. If you object to your child reading a particular book, send it back to the library, and we’ll help your student find another selection. We’ll put the first book back on the shelf because even though you don’t feel it’s the right book for your child right now, it may be the perfect book for someone else’s.
Now here's your moment of joyfully letting go: