Tuesday, 20 September 2011

What’s wrong with scary Books for Kids? Maurice Sendak’s view and mine.

An article in Guardian* yesterday reiterating one from the New York Times** quotes Maurice Sendak (new book coming out, “Bumble-Ardy,”) as saying that children’s books are too safe and that modern children's books are not always "truthful or faithful to what's going on with children". "You mustn't scare parents. And I think with my books, I managed to scare parents," said Sendak. 

Read articles here:

My first book, out in the UK (not US), ‘The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion (and us!) in the Land at the Back of Beyond’ is definitely perceived by some adults as far too scary to allow their children access (even though it is a nonsense quest story), while children (all those I’ve heard from) love it and see nothing wrong with a bit of scariness.
Quote (from Bookwitch review responses) –
ab | March 16, Reply: “Sounds and looks intriguing, and those wonderful details such as the snake travelling wrapped around the neck of the – what is it – a hyena? Delightful!
But isn’t it perhaps mainly for grownups who admire the artistry? I would be scared to death by it as a child because of the sinister and foreboding atmosphere in the pictures. And who is so cruel as to threatens to give away children’s toys? The kids in the corner – it reminds me of dictatorships and torture…. brrrr.”
bookwitch | March 16, Reply: “I find I get more scared the older I get. Most children are quite ‘unfeeling’ in some way. And Alan has had lots of satisfied customers, I gather. Of the small variety.
But yes, the mother was a bit over the top with her threat. And so was that woman who wanted to eat Hansel and Gretel.”

From an Amazon reviewer: “From the TERRIFYING front cover, I was worried that this book would be too frightening for a young audience - however, I was completely wrong.” and, “the Minorbore AXING you??”
From kids, though: “The best part (to me) is probably when Sweenie "pondered" and brought down the hilarious Balloonafuss, that utterly baffles them!” and “Here's one of my drawings of a Minobour!”

It is PC (protective custody) adults who decide that a book is too scary for their kids – I’ve never had a complaint from a child. Perhaps Maurice Sendak is right about today’s coddled-childhood in publishing: my book was self-published, yet has sold nearly 8,000 at £15 in hardback in the UK (80 pencil illustrations in160p. story) with plenty of very enthusiastic kids reviews.

Do Mathematicians have hearts – or – from Bucky Fuller to I-Ching

A nonsensical Twitter exchange with a nice chap from that cold watery waste north of the USA, @JohnJGeddes.
It meandered from this:
@JohnJGeddes: “we are the sum of our loves, so a great writer must have a great heart.” Retweeted to one of my friends, @1_Lovelife
to which I responded: “What does that make a great mathematician?”
He: “The sum of his other sides :)”
I: “He is the Hippopotamus in the Room: in his squareness being the sum of the squares of his bottom- and back-sides!”
He: “my best friend in Scotland is a Mathematician - I know you Math people have great hearts :) ”
I: “I knew one once with a great heart – gave him lift from airport to lecture to Royal Society (?) – Bucky Fuller.”
He: “Oh, wow! Yeah, a good guy :)”
I: “Bucky was a phenomenon! I frivolously worked out that his Vector Equilibrium reconciled east and west. How?”
He: “I'll bite...how?”
I: “1. Individuating West (points as opposed to connections). Represent a one-frequency VE as twelve points around a focus – Christ”
I: “2. Relational East. Within 2-frequency VE can be found the eight great hexagrams (paired orthog. helixes)+56 lesser hexagrams…”
I: “… of the I-Ching! (Each hexagram/tetrahedron is of two opposite handed orthogonal helixes, each of three lines)”
I: “Which brings us to my Minorbore’s secondary riddle: How did the Ring square up to the three Axes?”
I: “In a dual, of course! Bucky’s (VE) cuboctahedral dual, rhombic dodecahedron in spherical guise is the shape left by…”
I: “… the orthogonal intersection of three identical diameter rings or tubes (the three axes). OK enough, ed.”
He: “that's a really elegant solution, Allan* - the Math I mean - well, the drink too, I suppose :)”

[*I guess they spell Alan with two ells over there – to make it go further – they have such vast distances to cover, you see]

I add a few diagrams ‘borrowed’ from the web (I hope with no offense, since there is no commercial purpose to this) to help explain the figures.

The spheres (vertices) represent the individuated West and 12 closest pack around a central to form a frequency 1 Vector Equilibrium or Jesus and the Twelve disciples of Christianity.
The edges (connecting lines) represent the inter-relational East and a 2-frequency Vector Equilibrium has 8 Great (2-frequency) Tetrahedra (Hexagrams) and 56 lesser (1-frequency) Tetrahedra, making the 64 hexagrams of the I-Ching.

This raises the vexed question of why 13 is considered unlucky in the West, whereas 7, the closest packing of circles around a central circle, is considered lucky. Mathematically, both should be lucky (because stable).