Thursday, October 16, 2008

Paddington's Appeal

We had another enjoyable installment of Michael Bond's A Bear Called Paddington last night. My kids are so into it that I've been trying to pin down exactly what his appeal is. The book has slapstick humor and fish out of water situations which are always popular with children, but it is Paddington himself who is the real draw here. He is an outsider who tries hard but never quite fits in, he's always hungry, has good intentions but is often misunderstood. Who among us can't relate to that? Plus, he's a bear. Bears are cute. And, he's a bear. I think anthropomorphism in children's literature is a good thing. I remember back in graduate school disagreeing with a classmate who said she was sick of all the talking animals in kids books. That was before I had children of my own. I feel more strongly about it now that I've seen them fall in love with so many "talking animals." I think when characters in kids books are animals who think and feel as kids do but don't look like any real kid, all kids can relate to them. In my opinion that is the reason Marc Brown's Arthur series is so successful. Arthur isn't black, white, Asian, Latino, or other. He's an aardvark who faces many conflicts and decisions real children do. He's everyboy. Similarly, we all, adults and children, can identify with Paddington.

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