Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Featured Book - "The Story of Childhood"

Libby Brooks
The Story of Childhood: Growing Up in Modern Britain
305.230941 BRO

Touching on the same themes as the current work by the RSA Risk Commission into childhood is The Story of Childhood: Growing Up in Modern Britain, by Guardian journalist Libby Brooks, who evidently doesn’t believe that children should be seen and not heard. Her book is a vivid snapshot of the state of modern childhood, through portraits of nine very different modern kids. Their voices ring from the page: sporty, savvy nine-year-old Lois; Nicholas, nearly a genius and bound for public school; Adam, the free-ranging country boy; fifteen-year-old Laura, who hates her looks and was bullied badly at school; and Majid, a politics-fixated, McDonald’s-eating motormouth.

Perhaps most poignant of all are the portraits of those most vilified of modern childhood figures, a young offender, Ashley, and Lauren, a teenage mum. Brooks skilfully avoids the clich├ęs, interweaving her depiction of the children’s lives with a measured overview of the social and political context of these children’s lives: the problems of developing role models for young boys, the politics of respect, the state of sex education and more.

Most of all she asks questions about a ‘generation bred in captivity’, and the world they live in. Brooks doesn’t shy away from the big terrors of childhood today, and the book is hugely enlightening on issues such as self-harming, bullying, child pornography, obesity and eating disorders. But it is also infused with joy, as the story is told in the irrepressible voices of children. By the end it is hard to disagree with the book’s six-year-old Rosie that ‘without children this world would be sad, this world would be empty.’ Out of the mouths of babes indeed.

To borrow a copy of The Story of Childhood: Growing Up in Modern Britain, please contact the RSA Library.

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