The Republic of Childhood

pumpkinJust inside the cover of an 1895 book by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin entitled The Republic of Childhood is a librarian’s note:  “Attention Patron:  This volume is too fragile for any future repair.”

In the aftermath of recent shootings and bombings, it’s tempting to ask if the Republic of Childhood itself (that brief season of life when protective adults create a safe space for a child to wonder and dream) is also “too fragile for any future repair.”  Has the ready accessibility to news, complete with chilling real-time visuals, broken down the walls of that Republic so that we adults can no longer function as its guardians?

Children’s writers are particularly aware of the boundaries of that Republic.  How much reality do we let in?  How do we tell our young readers the truth (in either fiction or nonfiction) while still protecting their tender spirits?

I found a beautiful letter from a mother to her children in response to recent events that helped me to think about those very questions.  Even the sturdiest walls around the Republic of Childhood will be breached at some point by a death of a pet or a family member or by an unspeakably evil event in the world out there.  The letter presents a way of talking to a child whose secure Republic has been invaded.  The letter also helps me as I think about what I write for my readers.

I hope all of you former citizens of the Republic of Childhood find it encouraging!