Pros: Short, concise, so much to say. This is NOT just for children
Cons: not enough people have read it.
THE WORLD IN THE SIXTIES
I was a teen of the sixties. A time when so much was changing and we were still in a cold war with a very real nuclear threat. We always had the good guys and the bad guys. We always were wary of the other side no matter which side we were on. We lived in a world with brain washing, propaganda, and covert views. Our world today still has these things going on and that's what makes this long lost classic so important.
James Clavell died in the mid-nineties but not before establishing himself as a terrific writer. He wrote books and screenplays. The science fiction classic The Fly with Vincent Price was his. To Sir with Love starring Sidney Portier is an Adaption that he wrote and produced and was widely popular.
More of his claim to fame came with his series on the "Orient" Great books and pictures like Shogun, Tia Pan, Noble House, and others were all to his credit.
This one particular book A Children's Story may seem to pale next to his other works because it is a book with maybe fifty pages of large type. What this book lacks in pages is made up for in it's message and delivery.
It's a simply written story of children in a classroom after some changes happen. We follow the dialog of the new teacher and her seven year old students. We are not told why there is a new teacher but we can fill in the blanks ourselves. The new teacher is simply known as the New Teacher. She never gets a name. The new teacher comes into the room replacing a tearful Miss Wordon, their old teacher, who is told to go to the principals office.
As the new teacher starts talking to them we see what happens to the thought process of these children in a short span of time. Much of the story revolves around our "Pledge of Allegiance". These children learn it from repeating it over and over and not necessarily by the meaning of it word by word. One of the characters Johnny, who is a student does question some of the ideas the new teacher is enlightening them with. Even Johnny's questioning mind gets shaped to the teachers views. The story covers just twenty five minutes. It shows how one person can mold the minds of young ones especially if they are not taught the meaning of the words they learn only through rote.
What a powerful twenty five minutes it is. The fact is twenty five minutes should be all the time you need to read this book, if that. A cup of coffee and it's done.
Though the book is finished in short time I believe it will stay with you for quite a while. It has stayed with me all these years. The Children's Story is a book for children ten and up and all teens and adults. It's a great book to discuss with the family. In fact if this is read by a young person I believe it is very important to discuss it's message. It is also the perfect lead in on just what the Pledge of Allegiance is and what the words mean.
One day after James Clavells child came home from school his daughter asked him for a dime if she could recite the pledge perfectly. This prompted Clavell to think about how his daughter and other children were being taught such an important statement.
The following is directly from the back jacket of the soft cover book. Some in Clavell own words.
It was a simple incident in the life of James Clavell-a talk with his young daughter just home from school-that inspired this chilling tale of what could happen in twenty-five quietly devastating minutes. He writes" The Children's Story came into being that day. It was then that I realized how vulnerable my child's mind was-any mind, for that matter-under controlled circumstances.
"Normally I write and rewrite, but this story came quickly-almost by itself. Barely three words were changed. It pleases me greatly because it keeps asking me questions....."Questions like What's the use of 'I pledge allegiance' without understanding? Like Why is it so easy to divert thoughts? Like What is Freedom? and Why is it so hard to explain? "The Childrens Story keeps asking me all sorts of questions I cannot answer. Perhaps you can-then your child will...."
This is a very, very, short story. It shows how a child's mind,and perhaps any person's mind, can be molded. In this post 9/11 world The Children's Story rings as true today as it did in the sixties.
There was a film version of the story. I don't know if it is any longer available.
James Clavell's The Childrens story...but not just for children. I do hope you read it!