Monday, January 14, 2013

Guns in Children’s Books

To have a gun in the house–or not. For parents who would like a path into a family discussion about the role and responsibility of guns, children’s books can help.

SWIFT by Robert J. Blake, Philomel Books, 2007.
Swift is a hero dog. He’s also the main character in this adventure that grew carefully and thoughtfully, emerging from the notes and sketches of an author/illustrator who has spent many hours outdoors.

Lucky us! We stay warm and safe in our favorite reading places while Swift and his creator lead our imaginations on a wild and dangerous chase. You might want to have a sweater handy.
Readers will relate to Johnnie who has yearned since his earliest days on this earth to go hunting with his dad and their dog Swift. “This year I passed the gun course,” an excited Johnnie tells us. This is only the second sentence in what will become a survival story. Parents will hear the message: training first. 

Gorgeous Alaskan scenery beckons. Swift looks out at the mountains, at attention, as though danger is on the other side of the page turn.  Braving danger is a necessity. Johnnie’s homesteading family depends upon a successful bear hunt to feed them all winter.
Turn the page and the bear appears. We're off and running. Readers forget to breathe. The story barely stops to take a breath. Text and art work together in frantic syncopation.

Pa is hurt and must be left behind with only his gun for protection. Johnnie and Swift take off to find help. Johnnie carries his own gun (which he has been carefully trained to use, remember?)
Do they make it? Far be it from me to spoil the ending. I’m still shaking from the first sighting of that bear.

The author’s web page chronicles the development of Swift from first idea to final version. Anyone interested in the process of bringing a story to life on the page will be fascinated. Other writers and illustrators will appreciate Blake's candid remarks.
Parents and young readers—ten year old boys would be a great audience--will be glad this book exists.

Who knew reading could be this exciting?

Who knew the topic of gun safety could be introduced so smoothly?  


  1. Wow! Sounds like an exciting book.
    And certainly a good balance to a hot topic to understand how any question has many facets.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Kath. Kids' books offer an uncluttered means of getting to the basics of topics like these.


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