During the past few months, Maia started really getting into chapter books. She is finally able to wait a few hours between a chapter and the next and no longer feels the need to read a whole book in one sitting. Her newfound love of longer books means I could introduce her to some of my favourite childhood authors like Enid Blyton.
We recently finished reading The Magic Faraway Tree and no sooner had we read the last word than she had another Blyton book lined up. Then the questions started. Did she write her books at a computer or a typewriter? What are her daughters’ names? What sort of name is Imogen?! So I looked up the author on Wikipedia and started answering her questions and pointed out her large volume of work. At some point, I mentioned the year of her death and my poor daughter’s face fell. All she could say was “but…but…bu…”. Apparently, she had been under the impression that Blyton was still roaming this earth and the realisation that she wasn’t was a bit of a shock for her.
So we moved on to other authors they had recently discussed at school, namely Roald Dahl and Anne Frank. This is where enthusiasm got the better of me and I started listing the books by Dahl we simply must read after the current Blyton is done with. She waited patiently until I paused to catch my breath and asked me whether I had read Anne Frank’s Diary and whether I knew that Frank had written it during the war, while hiding. Then came the question which would open the portal to a black hole I didn’t know a way out of. What is a war and how did Anne Frank die? I tried as best as I could to explain the whole concept of countries fighting for power and, more specifically, Hitler’s role in the last World War and how Anne Frank was killed because she was Jewish. Then I showed her a photo of our old Opera House, which was destroyed during that same war and the tears started flowing.
I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.
Those few seconds took my daughter from believing that life is a fairytale to realising that man can be cruel and destructive. She couldn’t understand why someone would cause such devastation. I’ve always tried to shield her from the harshest realities, without hiding from her the issues a lot of people live with everyday. She has met homeless people on our travels and even befriended one on our last trip to Paris. She knows about the danger of children being abducted and is well aware that millions live in poverty and misery. These were all things I could tell her about without showing her just how twisted human beings can be. Trying to explain the Holocaust and wars to her was too much for both of us.
All I could do was to remind her that most people are good and very few are truly wicked and that she is being taught good manners, responsibility and respect at a young age so that she will eventually be on the good team and fight the bad. Maybe dressed as Super Bendy.