Trash by Andy Mulligan was the subject of my previous blog. You will be pleased to hear that I have now read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was everything it promised to be. Written for the children’s market it took a truly horrific situation – poverty-stricken children who live on a dumpsite – and dealt with it in a manner that highlighted their plight while being sensitive to the age group it was aimed at. One of the hardest things for children to learn is that not everyone is in the same position they are. Abused children believe all children are abused, children from loving homes believe all children have loving homes, children from noisy and argumentative households believe it to be the norm…only as they get older and learn to listen and read are they exposed to all the different relationship dynamics that exist in the world, and books like Trash help them explore the harsher realities of life in other cultures and countries from the safe comfort of their armchairs.
The Blue Peter panel rejected the book after previously shortlisting it because of two swear words and an incidence of violence. The incidence of violence is severe but not gratuitous. It highlights the seriousness of the situation that is prevalent in that society and the corruption that is endemic in Raphael’s world. In fact, compared with what he could have been faced with Raphael was lucky, and the situation was handled very matter-of-factly. The swear words came within the same scene and were used by the adults to exemplify their opinions of the children. They are extremely mild words (if they are the ones I am thinking of as I did not come across any others) and one of them was used in an everyday descriptive sense whilst the second one was a variation of the former, referring to the children as ‘crap’.
Blue Peter was wrong. The book is extremely strong and will, I admit, make children cry if only because it is so horrifying, but then so is war and we do not shield children from the horrors of war, and nor should we. This book, if read by a child under the age of 10, needs to have certain aspects explained, as do books like War Horse, Shadow, Lord of the Rings, Mortal Engines, Wind in the Willows, Noughts and Crosses… The book is based on an uncomfortable reality and I would urge you to read it. Sheltering children is counter-productive. Instead, read the book with them and explain the situations that arise; let them cry; allow them to ask the difficult questions and explore the answers together. In short, empower them!
Trash by Andy Mulligan. Read it, then read it to your child.