When ideology dominates instead of respect for the child’s emotional world

Why certain topics do not belong in children’s book

by Nicole Duprat, France

At the 2019 Geneva Book Fair, the children’s book “Paulette” was presented as part of a talk entitled “Why is euthanasia taboo in children’s books?”. No discussion was possible afterwards.
    Under this rather aggressive title, the authors tell a seemingly “innocent” story with successful illustrations that enable the child to identify with the characters. A chicken suffering from a serious illness wishes to end its suffering. It therefore decides to take the end of its life into its own hands by resorting to euthanasia as a last resort: euthanasia under the watchful eye of a family of chickens on the farm, which is intended to “touch us” and prepare the child for the farewell of a loved one. 
    The protagonists in the children’s book try to convince us of the rightness of their approach (euthanasia is legal in Belgium), but we can ask ourselves what the real taboo is. Is it euthanasia or the refusal to love life to the end, or to accept the fact that there is even a joy in dying for someone who has lived his life well? 
    Besides, in reality, it is more than outlandish when doctors extinguish a person’s life by a lethal means in front of the child and his family. It is not necessary to put the child and his family through a practice marked by morbidity. The fact that the climate of such a situation causes fear is concealed in the book. 
    How callous it is to take the child as an adult in miniature and to condition it to behaviour for which it has neither the psychological maturity nor the elements of understanding of life and death! To force upon the child the meaning of euthanasia as the final solution to existence is neither respect for the child’s world nor psychological empathy for its personal sensitivity!
    How dishonest it is to extol euthanasia without mentioning the compassionate accompaniment at the end of life, which should be done in peace! Illness is not a scandal, and old age is not decay. The child can understand illness and suffering if it comes into contact with disabled children or has itself experienced a less serious illness. 
    How inhuman it is to manipulate the child’s feeling and thinking in order to impress upon him the “image” of a self-determined death, instead of speaking to him of the tenderness, the bond of love, which his loved one so desperately needs for his natural going! Loving life to the end, despite the evils of the ageing body and the gradual onset of physical decay, is the best example we can give our children by accompanying our loved ones in their final farewell. 
    Love is stronger than death. The memory of a loved one is a flower that does not fade. 
    “You are no longer where you were, but you are everywhere where I am.” (Victor Hugo)

(Translation Current Concerns)

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