No more happily ever afters

I have a question today. But before that listen to this story that I shared with the children of The Book Club this Sunday. I'll keep it short I promise.

The story (The Book Keeper)

... is set in the year 2042. It talks of a scenario where books and writing are extinct. ibooks, laptops, computers, tablets and phones are everywhere. However, there is this one poor Bangladeshi boy, Santanu, who possesses a book (A Bengali adaptation of Matilda). He doesn't understand the Bengali script so he uses it as a diary, address book, notepad and a scribble pad all in one.

One day the Internet crashes. The parents are angry and the children, restless. They are forced to play outdoors and stumble upon a dilapidated building which happens to be a deserted library. They start to love the place. They read, run around and learn to make up stories. Then one day the Internet comes back and the kids all disappear again back to their electronic world leaving Santanu alone but happy with the books. You can read the full story here. (While you're there you might like to check out the site. It has some amazing stories from around the world).

The question

So tell me now, does the ending bother you? It did bother me. Would you have thought of altering it before you shared the story with the kids?

I was sorely tempted to do that. I've tampered with stories earlier, mostly the so called 'fairytales', when the kids were younger. I did away with the gory and the unpleasant, evening out the rough patches making it perfect as it could get.

This time however I let it be. For one, this ending might be more near the truth than the one I have in mind, two - changing it would amount to trolling someone else's story, three - maybe it's time to let the kids figure out the situation for themselves. I sure was curious to see their reaction - would they accept it like it's inevitable or 'normal' (Yikes!!) or would they feel saddened like I was?

What the kids had to say

The kids completely loved it - the whole story. There were exclamations of 'cool' and 'awesome' at the idea of all kids having phones and tabs. But there also were 'haws' at the idea of no books. They accepted the story in a way more positive manner than what I'd ever imagined. Rather than a black and white approach they found many angles to it. Most said they liked the ending for Santanu's sake. They liked that Santanu could enjoy being by himself with just books for company. Some said this wasn't 'the end' at all and that finally the kids got bored of their computers after getting a taste of the good stuff and came back.

It's such joy to watch children think and talk and discuss. Yet one more time I was made to realise how I underestimate the way they think.

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