Occupy Childhood

I write books for kids. I tell stories  For some reason, people think this means I write safe words, calm words.  Happily ever after words.  Shush, shush, shush… The End.

And some of my words are safe. Because one of the things books can do is to reassure.  The world needs that. Sometimes.

But often, the opposite is true.  Children’s literature is, much of the time, subversive and wild and loud, because it is written for an audience that wants such things. For kids, the very act of living is the act of challenging, questioning, shouting. Children are radicals.  They say what they think.  They expect the world to be fair and equal and they push against it when it isn’t. They think that if they yell loud enough, for long enough, they can make people listen.  They are not always “on message” but they mean what they say, and if you listen to them, you’ll learn something.  They are creative. They sing. They dance.  They chant.  They wish. They struggle. They understand that the sheer physical experience of an action has meaning. That action has meaning.  That sometimes it isn’t until an action is over that you know why you did it.

It is our job, as authors and adults, to teach children how best to do this.

It is our job as a society to learn from them, to remain children ourselves, to be open, and reminded of the things we knew as children, before we became stuck and tired, before we forgot how to challenge, question, shout with every bit of us.

Occupy reminds me of this. And the very criticism leveled against it—that it is unruly, without a clear message, that is what makes me love it, believe in it. Occupy is (among other things) human, childlike, magical. Wild, governed by instinct and honesty, emotion and passion and need.   For this reason it gives me hope, the way that children give me hope. Occupy did not spring, fully formed, with a savvy marketing plan and list of talking points. It is not mature. Rather, it is growing.

Thank God.