Perhaps we have lost why kids need to read in a push for what our kids should read.
The why – is magic.
A reader who doesn’t find magic in reading will never love to read.
Enter Jon Klassen and The Skull, a beautifully illustrated adaptation of a Tyrolean folktale that takes readers through the adventure of a girl named Otilla. The story opens with Otilla running through a forest and crying, her origin story isn’t shared. What is shared is an odd friendship and a little mischief – things that are sure to delight children.
I know this because I sat in a room bursting with children from grades 1-3 who listened to Jon read his entire book aloud to them. I got to see their faces and hear their questions.
“Does the skull belong to the skeleton that searches for it in the story?”, votes were 60/40.
While parents worry that the story may be too spooky for kids, children aren’t covering their ears. Kids are engaged, “How did the skull go down the stairs?”, and “Does the pit actually have no ending?”.
That’s the Klassen magic, Jon allows readers to discover and decide for themselves.
I read a criticism of The Skull stating its lack of fullness. The problem stated was, that this reader wanted more of a backstory on Otilla and an explanation of the sketelon body.
This is where books go wrong, the publishing industry is making books for adults and disguising them as books for kids. Kids don’t need an origin story so they can decide if Otilla was a good person or not, she doesn’t need a tidy ending to fix the harm she was running from, she doesn’t need a dose of mindfulness or to be labeled as Otilla the brave (because she is), she just needs to be – a kid.
The magic in this book is that it doesn’t have an agenda, it’s just a story, the kind of story that thrills young readers, the kind of story you can get lost in – the kind of story that reminds you why you read.