About the Guest Blogger: Editorial Anonymous is a children's book editor who blogs about the publishing industry and takes questions from readers. Turn-ons include long walks in bookstores, quiet evenings at home with good lighting, and really childish senses of humor.
It’s easy to see this set of three stories as being as much for adults as for children, and I know many adults who love it dearly. If you’re unfamiliar with these stories, each starts with a ‘bad day’ part (a child trapped in interminable math lessons; flattened by cousins; held down for a doctor’s shot, etc etc) which is then followed by a ‘Bunny Planet’ part, where we see “the day that should have been” (time with mom in the garden and the kitchen, cooking tomato soup; time with dad in a cozy lighthouse while the storm is safe outside; time with oneself in a protected glade).
The ‘Bunny Planet’ parts are a chance for adults and children alike to reflect on the small things that build happiness. They are the comfort and the charm of these books.
But I’d like to talk about how meaningful the ‘bad day’ parts are.
Children don’t get to choose how they spend most of their days; the trips they take; the food they eat; the people they live with. The things that go wrong in these stories are, I think, apt to be trivialized by many adults, because many adults have forgotten what it’s like to have very few choices.
Do you remember how much better every single one of your days became when you got to decide what to do with them? Most adults don’t. Most adults think the jobs they go to are roughly equivalent to school, because it is something they have to do, and they have to deal with bullies and jerks, too—and hey! they have to work eight hours, whereas their kids only have to be in school for 6 or 7, and there’s recess! and, like, no commute!
There are a bunch of reasons why an adult’s workday is not equivalent, and quite a bit better than a kids’ school day, though, and good writers for children will remember these things.
1. I don’t care how many bullies and jerks you have to deal with—you know how. You know how to respond to them, or how to ignore them. Kids don’t. The rough side of social experience can and does make children wretched, sometimes on a daily basis.
2. I don’t care how traffic- or flasher-filled your commute is, if you don’t think a school bus is worse, try imagining getting on the same uncomfortable subway car every day, but it’s not full of strangers. It’s full of people who know you and generally have mixed feelings about you. Some of them are hostile towards you, and the rest have limited social skills—including your friends, and you.
3. I don’t care that you have to have a job, and can’t get out of that. There is an enormous hit to your morale that you are not taking because it’s still up to you whether you have to go to this job or not. Kids get no say at all in which school they go to, whether they get to (or have to) change schools, whether they take a sick day or vacation if they’re feeling burnt out.
Powerlessness is hard, and demoralizing. Kids know this. Most of them manage to be pretty darn cheerful anyway, because powerlessness is all they’ve ever known. But don’t be dismissive of it. It is exactly this aspect of children’s lives that makes small problems feel like calamities, and that attracts children to stories that feature orphans and magical powers and heck, even choose-your-own-adventure.
Everyone faces forces in life that they cannot control. But many adults forget just how many choices they get to make every day. If you’re writing for children, you don’t get to forget this: most kids’ favorite thing to imagine is steering their own lives.