Small Hurts Matter, Too

We're sharing thoughts this month about the importance of writing books for young readers about "tough subjects": stories that help children face and understand poverty, racism, war, disability, death. I've written about some pretty "tough" subjects myself. My characters experience the death of a loved one in Dinah Forever and Makeovers by Marcia, wrestle with parental divorce in The Totally Made-Up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish, and face the frightening reality of a parent's mental illness in my darkest book, One Square Inch. I'm proud of those books and hope they speak to young readers navigating the turbulent waters of their own troubled lives.

And yet . . . when I think back on my childhood, which had its own share of "tough" things, it's some of the more ordinary pangs of more ordinary childhood that haunt me still:

  • The time my mother made me bring a recycled gift which she had received as an elementary teacher ("dusting powder") to a friend's birthday party - my cheeks still flame at the memory.
  • The time the fourth grade teacher made fun of me in front of the whole room for being unable to do some of the motions in a "Bonnie Prudden"workout tape  - to this day, I am unable to take part in an exercise class for fear of being shamed.
  • The time I saw a note written by one "friend" to another "friend" which said, "Can you believe that Claudia thinks we actually LIKE her?" - decades later, I find it hard not to wonder what my nearest and dearest REALLY think about me.

These are such small things in a world marked by such huge tragedies.

And yet . . . they felt so big to me, to the small child that I was - and still am, deep inside.

So, as we tackle tough subjects in our writing, I think we also need to remember this: problems that may seem insignificant to us as grownups, and that indeed are insignificant in "the scheme of things," matter deeply to the children who are experiencing them. Sometimes I think that to write for children is to be committed to taking seriously problems that the rest of the world doesn't think are very important. Our writing can, without apology, honor these moments of childhood, too.


  1. Those seemingly small "hurts" of childhood are thing we carry and wear into our adulthood, as you you deftly expressed Claudia.

  2. This is SUCH a good point. It's so true.


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