There was a king, a queen, a princess (usually sad), a fairy and a beast, sometimes to add spice to the story. All these were mixed in the right proportion for an ending where evil is punished and good is rewarded to live happily forever.
Snap to the 21st century where a 14-year-old boy with occult powers loves a girl and fights the world in order to know about his past and secure a future. His character has shades of grey and not everything he does can be moralistically approved. His story finishes with everyone mourning over his fatal end and resenting the surviving enemies who should have been, but do not, die.
This was just a glimpse of the evolution of children’s literature over the past few years.
While the books are written with an aim to educate and entertain the young readers keeping in mind their levels of understanding and ensuring they do not pick a wrong meaning, yet the books have seen a serious change in their content.
Call it the influence of television and cinema or advent in technology; kids have started liking the abridged and milder versions of books for adults. The simple stories of kings and queens no longer cater to their imagination and such texts are left for toddlers as their initial lessons in life.
“I was a judge at a children’s short story competition recently and almost 50 per cent of the entries received were either on science-fiction or talked about monsters. So we can see a shift towards the make-believe and the fantastic world where reality takes a backseat,” says well-known author Ruskin Bond.
Anushka Ravishankar, another writer of the same genre, feels, “Kids are exposed to many medias these days. So even if the books do not promote the trend, cinema, television and games will.”
Sanya Ralhan, a Class X student from Salwan Public School tells HT Next that she used to like the simple stories when she was a kid. But now, Harry Potter is her favourite fictional character and she likes books that have mystery, magic and fantasy in them.
On the other hand, Diya Sen, a 4-year-old toddler, likes to read books that have images of spaceships, helicopters and aliens. Her mother says the regular characters of animals, queens and princesses do not attract her much and she gets bored easily with them.
Times, surely, have changed!