Lifting the flap and seeing: the things that go on in children's books

My son Finn loves lift and flap books. Loves them perhaps a little too much, as little Finn is a tearer.

There is a page in this ingenious book on trains, emergencies, planes and even a cruise ship. The cruise ship at least looks a little different during this global pandemic.

The page on trucks caught my eye. "Livestock trucks carry animals to farms or markets." Everything is nice about this truck. There is no slaughterhouse anywhere in the book. The animal's lives can be defined just by a nice and normal transaction, and they are carried, almost lovingly.

Lift one flap and you see them, a little crowded, but baaing as all good sheep do. Lift the larger flap, and you don't even see a scene of crowding. Happy people are loading a few sheep that look happy to come on board. "Straw and food is put inside to make them more comfortable." But, really, what would they feel uncomfortable about? The smiling people are making sure they are all safe and happy. Even the truck driver looks happy, well rested and completely comfortable. Things of course are not at all like this in reality. Perhaps though it's not necessary for our kids to understand that things in the real world are not like this. They need to feel comfortable. They may not need to know that unhappiness and suffering can exist in industries that are designed to give them minimal attention. There is nonetheless a reality beyond these lift and flaps that they will quickly discover for themselves. When I was a kid, I sat and observed all the lies adults told me. I remember being four years old and overhearing others and realising Santa was a lie. The world crumbled around me, but I knew there was a reason bigger than me to hold on to the feelings involved. I played along and I remember still enjoying those lies. They said it wouldn't be that way. They told me that the vulnerable would be comfortable, and that injustice would not go unanswered. It is not that way. Today a part of me still believes in childhood and the power of stories. I know that it could be that way. The world would be just a little bit better if it really did behave like the world that adults are comfortable sharing with their children. Now as I approach middle age, I realise that I have spent much of my life trying to get back to the world - that magic, better world - that adults promised me. Each generation seems to discover these things for themselves, and so it goes.

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