jueves, 31 de mayo de 2018

Learning to Say Goodbye | The Indian Express

Learning to Say Goodbye | The Indian Express

Learning to Say Goodbye

Australian author Ken Spillman on writing about death for children

Written by Surbhi Gupta | Updated: May 31, 2018 12:00:59 am
Australian author Ken Spillman
Ken Spillman

India captured Australian writer and historian Ken Spillman’s imagination right after he arrived in the country in 2006. His first book with Indian characters and settings, Advaita The Writer, ended up on CBSE’s recommendation list. Subsequent visits to India gave rise to other stories for children and young adults such as Daydreamer Dev, The Auto That Flew, Rahul and the Dream Bat and No Fear, Jiyaa! The Perth-based writer, with more than 70 books, has also engaged with Australian social history, sports writing, poetry and literary criticism. In his latest book, The Great Storyteller (Scholastic, Rs 225), Spillman, 58, narrates the story of three monkeys — Maya, Arun and Chi — and the great storyteller, a wise old elephant who tells them stories every day. When he dies, the forest turns into a cold and sad place. Excerpts from an interview with the author:
More writers are now communicating the idea of death to children through picture books. Why is it important for them to learn about it at an early age?
Simply because it’s more harmful to ‘protect’ them from it. When we ‘protect’ children from big issues, we may do so with the best of intentions but we forget that children receive and deal with issues in a way that is appropriate to them, at their specific level of social and emotional development. They may not understand what we understand, but that doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t expect them to. It’s important to put issues like death out there so that they can be absorbed into that whole world of the ever changing ‘normal’.
What prompted you to write on death?
In the book, I set out to write about recovery and not death. I’ve been interested in the idea of resilience, and the role of imagination in building it. Death is part of life, but it leads to challenges and trauma for the family. In this book, I’m using death as a vehicle to show that those left behind can build new worlds.
How do animals help in narrating a story for children?
If I create a human character with specific human characteristics, they may create a barrier for a young reader. We can endow animals with our own specifically human characteristics. A creature that is not human can be made so through the imagination.
Do you think Indian children are different from those in Australia?
In essence, children are the same everywhere. To generalise, I would say that children in Indian classrooms are better listeners and articulate their thoughts better than those in Australian classrooms. In Australia, less is expected of children and it shows.
How has the psyche of children changed over time with vast exposure and advanced technology?
Children are more connected by technology, yet also more isolated because of it. Our world needs creative thinkers and problem solvers, so if I could give children two things, the first would be more time for unstructured, unsupervised play. The second would be more time to engage with the challenges of others through stories.
How did your interest in writing develop?
I loved listening to stories first, and then reading. There came a point in my childhood when I realised that I could enjoy writing stories just as much. Creating characters and entering into a situation with them seemed like magic to me — and it still does. As a shy teenager, I enjoyed using a medium in which I felt both safe from embarrassment and was able to explore ideas at a deeper level.
Why won’t you write non-fiction again?
When I said that, I believed it was true but now I realise that I just meant I’d be very selective about it in future. I had been prolific as a writer of non-fiction, and felt a resentment towards it because it had taken up so much time when I could’ve been writing my own stories. These days, I’m open to non-fiction again. I realise that it has given me many things, including discipline.
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