What can you say?

Daughter was browsing in Toppings in St Andrews a few weeks ago, when a young teenage girl and her mother came in. The girl looked around and noticed a copy of Celia Rees’ Witch Child, which seemed to have some significance to her. So she picked it up and handed it to her mother, presumably in the hope that she’d be allowed to buy it.

The mother looked at the cover and read the blurb on the back and looked inside the book, before telling the girl it wasn’t a book for her.

So, what should this Witch’s Daughter have done? She badly wanted to tell the mother that she had just rejected a tremendously good book, and that the girl had excellent taste, and should be allowed to read what she wanted.

But she didn’t dare interfere. Perhaps rightly so.

I’d like to think if I was that mother, I was simply making a rash decision from a quick look, and that I wasn’t involved in any serious gatekeeping regarding my child. That if another young person stood there and said they loved the book, I would change my mind and buy it.

But what if she was a strongly minded gatekeeper? Then she’d look a fool, and might feel forced to either buy the book, or to stomp out of the shop in anger.

And would this kind of advice or suggestion be better coming from a ‘recent teen’ reader, or from a trustworthy adult who is also a parent?

10 responses to “What can you say?

  1. I think it’s harder once the mother has rejected the book. I think if you see someone looking and leap in and say “That’s a fantastic book, I loved it because x. y & z” then it’s more likely to be well received.

    maybe if you think fast enough on your feet you could say “Excuse me, do you mind my asking why you don’t want to buy the book? I read it recently and really enjoyed it” which is a non-confrontational way of having a conversation, and if it’s framed as “I really enjoyed it” not “you should let your daughter read it” it’s less likely to offend.
    And I suppose that it is just possible that mum knows daughter has an irrational fear of quilting, or something, and really is unlikely to enjoy the book…

  2. It’s a hard one.I pretty much let my son read what he wants, but then he never WANTS to read anything highly inappropriate.
    I’ve not read Witch’s Daughter, but it sounds just like the kind of thing I would’ve read when I was a girl – loved magic/ mystery/ historical stories and still do.
    It depends why the mum rejected the book, I guess – subject? Style? Quality? We’ll never know. Some parents just don’t like the idea of young people reading about magic, do they? Wasn’t there a big to-do over Harry Potter with some folk claiming it’d lead kids to try magic themselves?
    Even though I loved that kind of book and wanted it to be true, I knew it wasn’t and most kids know the difference between fact and fiction.

    • Celia’s book is not about magic, really. It’s about old time witch hunts, and fantastic in every way.

      • Shame that girl missed out on it, then. If I see it I’ll have a read on your recommendation! Really I think we should do as little as poss to censor our kids reading (excepting extremes of violence and sexual content, of course). Reading your choice of books (even and especially if your parents don’t approve) is part of growing up and developing your own tastes and personality.

  3. Aagh! One less sale! Have to say, I’ve seen this before with another of my titles. Comfort myself with the though that if I’m writing the kind of book that this mother doesn’t want her kid to read I have to be doing something right. Adults who actively discourage a child from reading – it beggars belief!

  4. You’ll have to go without lunch tomorrow to make up for it.
    Happy Birthday, btw. This was a totally unintentional date for my post, and an odd coincidence. A witchy thing, I suppose.

  5. Do you suppose she was telling her daughter “But this is your fifth copy of Witch Child! We can’t buy one every time we enter a bookshop! ‘

  6. How sad! Because it is the most fabulous book. I would have been tempted to say how good it was–but perhaps that would have put the teen off?
    Really hope she seeks it out anyway (library, school, etc.)

  7. Maybe the mother thought as I assume she could only have done, that since the book seemed too challenging for her, it would have to be far too difficult for any progeny.

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