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How cool is this?

How cool is this?

A blogger is posting entries from The Diary of Samuel Pepys online:

This site is a presentation of the diaries of Samuel Pepys, the renowned 17th century diarist who lived in London, England (read more about him). A new entry written by Pepys will be published each day over the course of several years; 1 January 1660 was published on 1 January 2003.


Today, July 24, 2006, he’s posted the entry for Friday 24 July 1663.

One great thing is that it’s very, very hyperlinked with annotations that fill in all sorts of background information. This is the sort of thing the internet is perfect for, you could link whole books worth of information to a specific point in the text. You can’t do that in a book because it would quickly become too big to carry around.

There’s also a discussion group, which I haven’t check out yet.

I’ve never read Pepys’ diary, but it’s kinda on that list in the back of my mind of things I should read at some point. This looks like a great opportunity. I’m going to spend some time in the next few days poking around and having fun. I might then add the page to my rss feeds and read an entry a day.

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12 comments
  • Now that I’ve read this post I’ll try to respond to it.  Briefly.  Because all of a sudden we’re a lot closer than it looked before.  Maybe. 

    Here’s an example from elsewhere of what I’m after when I talk about different kids.  There’s a drug program called DARE about which I know very little.  However, there’s a lot of controversy about it and a friend of mine finally explained it to me thusly.  She said that it originally seemed to work well at turning kids away from drugs wherever it began, so it was mandated everywhere.  Then it didn’t work so well.  And the reason according to her was that it did a very good job of changing kids’ minds.  So it made bad kids good and … it made good kids bad.  Somehow, in its presentation of choices with regards to drugs the bad kids heard that they could make choices so some of them chose no drugs.  The good kids heard that they could choose and some of them chose drugs.  Clearly, this is a program I wouldn’t let my kids near because it is being offered at a totally wrong age and/or something in the presentation is failing to teach them how to actually make good choices. Fifth grade, I think, is when it is offered.  But, it did work with some kids somewhere really well.  It is easy to figure out why.

    I used to say that Rowling reminded me of the Jesuits in China in the sixteen hundreds.  They dressed like Mandarins instead of in their collars and lived like the Chinese and they made great strides in conversion because the Chinese could “see” them in ways that they didn’t see other missionaries whom the Chinese just considered barbarians.  There are fabulous stories of priests defending themselves and doing mathematical problems in front of the Emperor loaded down with chains, and then there would be conversions.  Then the whole thing fell apart because the Franciscans or Dominicans got to quarreling with them over the way they dressed as well as some translation of a word for God and the Chinese threw everyone out.  I think Rowling is doing great work in getting people to think properly about some really big issues.  Mr. Peterson disagrees that she’s even trying.  He thinks she’s just writing a thriller. 

    Some quickies.  I can’t get my mind around the idea that Ron is braver than Harry.  Ron is the born side-kick which from me is not an insult since I am one also.  But the leader is braver. 
    One thing that Ron and Harry did not want to say in the troll episode is that Hermione was crying because they had been so brutal to her.  It was that that Hermione, perhaps mistakenly, was covering up.

  • BTW, there are a few other series which demand more from the readers as the protagonist grows: in America, the Betsy-Tacy series (Maud Hart Lovelace) may be the best known.

  • I’m posting this here now but it was written as a response to your previous posts, not this one.

    Melanie,  (I couldn�t get this posted last night.  Trying again this morning…)

    My kids are 10, 12, 15 and 17.  I homeschooled them for nine years and just this year put the three youngest in school, two in a new parochial school and one in the local public school in ninth grade.  The oldest is at home with me still. (just fyi I was 33 when the oldest was born.) We’ve been reading HP for five plus years and I did not allow the ten year old to read all the books when she was eight or six. (Harry was eleven when the series started.)  I agree with you (we’ll say totally for now) about what children need in literature.  But….

    But teenagers aren’t children.  That’s been a hard lesson for me and it is one that many of my homeschooling buddies disagree with me on.  How long do you simply tell your kids what to do and when to do it?  Till they are seventeen? Twenty-three? Twelve?  The culture out there says never, and certainly that I was outrageous to keep HP from the six, seven, eight year old.
    Actually, when she read book four I taped up the pages of the graveyard scene and the beginning chapter and told her to come see me when she got there.  Then I gave her a brief synopsis and she moved on.

    But children who aren’t homeschooled aren’t being given all the images of the world that we have tried/will try to impart to our kids.  Those kids, having been given a different picture of the world need to be reached, I think, in a very different way to see issues of good and evil.  I think that over and over and over it is made explicit that good and evil come from choices that we make or that others make.  In a world where choice is supposedly the highest good and can never have bad consequences this is more important than anything.  I teach RE to fifth graders who go to the local public schools. Believe me (and i’m sure you know this from your own teaching) they are watching Gladiators when they are eight.  They read Goosebumps and see nothing wrong with it.  They are watching commercials on TV, let alone shows that I’m ashamed to know exist.  They insist that very few things matter BUT they want to know if Snape is good or bad.  So it isn’t that I think that the “children” issue isn’t important. It is that there are two issues. We could call them your kids and my RE kids.  One example.  Your kids aren’t going to play with Ouija boards.  My RE kids are going to think about it but when I say, Do you want to end up like Ginny Weasley in Book 2, No, they absolutely do not. 

    The thing with Divination is not just that the teacher was a phony.  It was Hermione’s discussion of the pet rabbit death and the other kids’ reactions to her “heartlessness.” It was the fact that things the Professor says that she doesn’t mean come to pass.  I can’t think of a good example right now from her but when harry is taking his exam and makes things up about a hippogrif because she’s annoying him they all come true. 

    The fact that the school has a ridiculous class is okay by me as a homeschooler, you know.  We discussed the books long before my kids had any schools to compare them with.  Now that they are in school it was very useful to say to them when they got a horrible teacher, oh well, the school hired Umbridge by accident.  My son calls someone at his school Filch and I know exactly what he means. 

    I want to say one more thing about my perspective before I go to bed.  My 12 year old had cancer when he was seven.  So all my children believe that really terrible things can happen to (reasonably) innocent people.  That colors their perspective.  So does the fact that some grownups simply couldn’t deal with John’s illness.  Catholic “friends” of mine asked me what I had done to bring this upon myself.  One of my sisters is sure that it was my fault because my children ate sugar.  What I’m trying to say is that my kids know in a funny way that some grownups can’t be trusted so that part of the books never comes up as a breaking of trust.  Did that make sense?  It’s getting really late…

    The kids and I talk incessantly about the consequences in the various books.  Like Hermione turning into a cat when she did the Polyjuice potion.  Because she really did know better, she was punished promptly.  I always tell the kids never to think they can get away with things that they see others doing.  Their angel will be after them promptly!

    Another merciless post! 

  • The Laura Ingalls Wilder series actually grows though it remains suitable for children at all times.  But the tone in the first book compared to the last, not tone, point of view?, something, is very different because Laura is older and the character reflects it.

  • Jane,
    There’s a lot to chew on here; but I’ll take it point by point starting with your earliest post and working my way down.

    oops I was wrong about harry’s age… I’m always terrible at recalling specific numbers, don’t know why it’s an odd mental block I had.

    We’re in agreement over not treating teens the same as younger kids. I do think that as they mature teens need to be given more autonomy and more responsibility. Hopefully if you’ve formed them well in the earlier years they will be able to make good choices for themselves when you start to pull back.

    I can’t recall where it was but I was recently touched by a story by a homeschooling mother about her teenaged daughter coming to her for approval of a book and she responded that it was up to the girl to decide whether or not it was appropriate. Quite a transitional moment. But parenting is a series of “letting go” moments. Responsible parents know when to censor, when to read and discuss and when to let a child make up her own mind. But I’d add the caveat that with some books even teens should be drawn into discussion about the trickier points.

    My own mom did this with us. I recall it more with movies than with books ( I know I read some books I probably shouldn’t have read). She’d say: I liked that movie except for the language. Or: That has an interesting premise but I think the sexual content was gratuitous. Or: That character made a poor choice.

    As far as when do you start to stop controlling everything…. I guess I’d say it depends on the child. Each person will mature at a different rate. And I would add that it should probably be a gradual process.

    I think your point that the books do offer some guidance with your RE kids is a good one. I’ve never claimed that HP is universally bad. There are some good messages in there. But there are also some mixed messages and some things I think could have been done better, scenes I think should have been cut or changed to make them less ambiguous. Precisely because they are getting a diet of such junk as you describe they are not well formed to pick their way through the moral equivalencies. If all kids were as well formed as most homeschooled kids, I’d have much less problems with them being handed HP.

    But it is precisely because I live in Salem and see the strong attraction the occult has on people that I am so wary of that element. Last fall there was a HP convention here in town and looking at the adult attendees I couldn’t tell the difference at times between them and the local wiccan/goth community. I suspect a strong overlap. I think HP can become a gateway to dabbling in such stuff because it can develop a taste for magic in children who are not well formed.

    Too many kids in the confirmation class I taught saw nothing wrong with going to a fortune teller or playing with a ouija board “just for fun.” But I wasn’t going to get into that side of things.

    I think I stand somewhere in the middle when it comes to the issue of whether Rowling is addressing big issues in a responsible way. My answer is yes and no. I think she is trying in her way to address the problem of good and evil. And in one sense I think she does succeed to a limited degree. But I think there are major flaws in the moral fabric of the HP universe. I think Rowling tries her best but I don’t think her best is good enough.

    Of course I will grant you that this is a work in progress not a finished work like The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia. We cannot yet judge the big picture because we have not seen the final product. But my critique based on what I have seen so far is that the moral foundation of this universe is not as sound as Tolkien’s or Lewis’.

    I didn’t claim Ron is braver than Harry, or didn’t mean to. Just that I don’t think Harry is demonstrably head and shoulders above Ron. Ron is a sidekick, and thus never as fully developed. But I fail to see a big difference in their abilities.

    As for the last issue of lying to cover up. I agree. The problem I have is not so much with any single episode of lying as with the pattern overall that it seems to be the default tactic of the heroic triad and that they get away with it too often unpunished or unnoticed or even winked at by the authority figures. It just rubs me the wrong way.

  • Sue,
    I’m not familiar with that title, but thanks for the info.
    Jane,
    I see how the Little House books kind of grow in that Laura gets older but none of the later books would I hesitate to hand to a preteen. The same holds true of Anne of Green Gables. In the latter books Anne grows up, goes to college, gets married and has children. But I never feel like any episode in any of the books threatens children’s innocence. I would not hesitate to read any of the books of either series aloud in front of children of any age. I suspect younger children might be bored by the latter books but that’s a different issue.

  • This Is a very Dense conversation.  Meaning full of points that each could be expanded on. 

    Of course you could hand any of those books (Laura or Anne) to a child and no problem except as you say for the boredom.  That’s the point I was sort of thinking of but in reverse.  That is, the first Laura book is not a story exactly.  It is just life and that’s what little, little children want.  It is as though in that book the author really remembered being five and how you watch to see how each thing is done in your world.  Life doesn’t move so much as be.  Her description of how to make cheese parallels one I found in Sunset magazine ten years ago, and I’m sure she made cheese as an adult but she described it down at the five year old level.  Same with hulling corn.  My daughter at four played that she was hulling corn.  I guess I’m trying to say that even before the “story” level there’s the life-here-and-now level and that book is a fabulous example.  In the Anne books, on the other hand, I think the tone is fairly similar throughout.  This is not a criticism just a comment on the question of authors changing what they are doing. 

    Another set of growing up books is the duo written by Kate Seredy about life on the Hungarian plains.  The second one incorporates WWI so it really isn’t as good as the first for younger children though it is a fabulous book, I’m thinking.  (Actually this is very interesting question to me and I’m not familiar with Betsy-Tacy either.)

  • Anyway, about HP. 

    Probably the most important thing about those books right now is what you said above.  If the last book doesn’t tie things up properly then the whole thing will become totally tainted in my eyes.  And in the eyes of my children too.  It’s very funny that you would give the books to well-formed kids.  If all children were well-formed, there’d be no need in my mind for HP at all.

    Because I’ve always discussed everything with my kids and we’ve discussed HP extensively and exhaustively with my family I haven’t really thought hard about what people get out of it when they aren’t discussing it. My sister spends all her time thinking about eugenics and how to combat it so she was onto that aspect right away.  The magic element is tricky but remember that Dungeons and Dragons, the game, came straight from TLOTR.  I’ve always seen HP magic as a metaphor for technology and one family member said she thought it was computers, as in, some people can manage them and some people can’t.  Very funny, I thought, me being one who only marginally can. My mother saw the senseless killings as the story of the twentieth century.

    I can’t remember who was linking to Alice von Hildebrand talking about the supernatural (maybe Dom?) and belief in it.  I thought she was dead on the money but I also think that kids get caught up in ghosts because they don’t quite believe OR disbelieve.  I think Screwtape addresses that in a devilish way. You know—all the fun of tormenting and scaring people but none of the downside of them believing and therefore taking precautions.  I find it a horrifying thing in my classes and try hard to shut off discussion quickly and move on to other better things.  (I don’t bring it up but I let the kids ask questions, as much as I can stand.  I find out that way what they are hearing of what I’m saying and it’s precious little.  Very humbling.)

    It was Mr. Peterson who went on about Harry being no better than Ron.  Sorry.

    Very last point.  You made me understand what YA literature is probably supposed to be about.  But I’m left wondering if it is worth it. 

  • A great point about Little House. I hadn’t thought of it, but you’re right the first book really does see the world from that child’s perspective.

    I’d say the biggest difference is that the Anne books start when she is much older, on the cusp of adulthood, thus there isn’t as much room for change.

    The Kate Seredy books sound interesting.

    I don’t think I saw the von Hildebrand piece you refer to, if you can find the link, I’d be interested.

    I think you’re right on the money with “kids get caught up in ghosts because they don’t quite believe OR disbelieve”. It reminds me of Chesterton: ” When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.” 

    Which is actually one reason why I’m hesitant about HP. So many uncatechized kids who don’t really believe in God because they don’t know him. They’ll believe in anything, including the occult.

    And unlike the fantasy works of Lewis and Tolkien which have a strong Christian worldview and thus I think have power to move people closer to God (My sister knew a girl who was anti-Christian who loved Narnia and conceded that if Christ is like Aslan then maybe she could consider the Christian position.) but I just don’t see Harry Potter having that power.
    Yes, he fisghts against an evil enemy, but I don’t at any time have a sense of God or a Christian world view. Yes, a Christian teacher can use the books as a catechetical tool; but without such guidance, I don’t think the books themselves have a strong pull one way or the other. They could lead a child with no formation toward a fascination with the occult. They certainly don’t by themselves inculcate a clear moral code because they are not consistent in punishing lying, cheating, etc. And children don’t learn if there is no consistency.

    I think you are confusing the good use you have been able to put them to with something good inherent in the books themselves. But from my experience HP without a guide is not sufficient in and of itself to lead anyone anywhere.

  • I’m a little late to contribute my two cents…..

    I think i’m torn on the issue

    On the one hand, JK Rowling has been asked on a few occasions about her intent with the HP books, whether they’re for kids, the appropriateness, etc….and she was very candid and honest when she replied that she is writing “a series of books that I would want to read.”  Coupling that with her literal rags-to-riches story, i’m not sure it’s fair to pile on to her wholly the responsibility for how her books affect people.  She’s very calculated in the way she writes—I have little doubt that she more or less knew how each book would unfold from the first book onward, and now she’s carrying out her writing plan.  The fact that the first book was Such a hit with kids…..on the one hand she probably knew the appeal it would have for kids; on the other hand, that it was so successful is not all her doing.

    I would argue that parents need to be more responsible for what their kids do, see, read, or listen to.  Melanie mentioned the concept of readers and books growing together, but what about the new readers?  I suppose the the conscientious parent would only let their child read the books appropriate to their age, i.e. you don’t get to read the 4th book until you’re 14.

    again, on the other hand, not all parents are like this, and not all the kids in the world are fortunate enough to have such constructive upbringing.  Is this Rowling’s fault?  Could we not also point a finger to the Marketing department, who continually targets kids with each new book regardless of the book’s content?  And yet again, the parents who don’t censor the book before their kiddos read it?

    Is her moral universe as sound as Tolkien’s or Lewis’?  well, no.  But i’m not sure she intended such an epic scale of Christian ethics—these books need to be taken on the level of What They Are, not what we wish them to be or what we wish we could read into them.  It’s just like going to a bad movie, knowing it’s going to be bad, and enjoying it anyway.  Expectation is the key, and expecting HP to bring you morally and spiritually closer to God…..

    What HP has done most for kids, very simply, is that the series has heightened an interest in reading, period.  What kids choose to get into book-wise afterwards, well that involves choices, parental support and interest, personal interest, etc.  Yes, it might be a gateway to an unhealhty interest in the occult.  But yes, it might be a gateway to a search for a more morally sound universe, as they’ll find when they move on to Lewis and Tolkien. 

    I dont mean to carry on and on.  It irks me the way, when issues like this come up, on any subject, how quick we are to point the finger at this one, or that one….. the responsibility for a kid’s upbringing and moral fiber does not rely upon a popular fiction writer in England.  Not entirely.  It relies on parents, on friends, teachers, environment, religion, other books, tv, video games, movies, music……well, you get the idea.

  • Mandy,
    You touch the heart of the debate: does an author have an ethical responsibility to his or her readers? More to the point, do the authors of children’s and young-adult literature have ethical responsibilities to their young readers?

    I’d answer yes to both questions; but I’ll sidestep the tangental first and dive into the more relevant second.

    I think that when a writer sets out to write for children they have a serious responsibility to ensure that what they write is going to be healthful and not harmful to immature minds that are not fully formed. Moreover, a writer of children’s literature has a duty to be sure the books they produce protect children’s innocence.

    As a mother I plan to monitor carefully what my children read because i know few writer’s feel an ethical responsibility to their children and it is my duty as a parent to be the primary educator of my children. However, I know that there are many parents who do not have the time or ability to fully screen what their children read. And some parents who try to do so are still not themselves sure what to look for, how to distinguis a good book from a bad.

    Parents do have the primary responsibility to educate their children; but writers of books also have a responsibility to write age-appropriate works. Further, I wold argue that a Christian writer has an even higher responsibility (those to whom much is given, much is required of them) they have a responsibility to dedicate their talents to the furtherance of God’s work in the world, to spreading the gospel messgae. Now this does not have to be done overtly. LOTR is the best example of excellent Catholic fiction out there and not a single mention of Christ! Flannery O’Connor is another fine example of a good Catholic artist and none of her characters are Catholic. But the worldview should be Catholic and especially if writing for children the book should provide good role models and a clear sense of morality. Good shold be rewarded, evil punished, heroes should be heroic, etc.

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