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Do all picture books have to happy endings?

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My son was traumatized by I Want My Hat Back! He was so sad for the poor rabbit. He is of a more sensitive disposition, though, and even Where The Wild Things Are upsets him (Why do they want to eat him up? That's scary and mean!) He's 4 now but I can't imagine how he'll cope with the Disney movies - so much sadness! - when we get to that stage.
#31 - July 31, 2014, 02:14 PM

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My son was traumatized by I Want My Hat Back! He was so sad for the poor rabbit. He is of a more sensitive disposition, though, and even Where The Wild Things Are upsets him (Why do they want to eat him up? That's scary and mean!) He's 4 now but I can't imagine how he'll cope with the Disney movies - so much sadness! - when we get to that stage.


My six-year-old told me the other day that she didn't want to watch any movies ever again because they are always sad or scary. TV series are fine, though, apparently. She's right!
#32 - July 31, 2014, 04:50 PM

As a Mom I need to say, "you gotta know your audience and your story."  As a parent you know when your child starts to appreciate the emotional response a story can bring, and even appreciate it. Maybe that's why Disney can appeal to a range of young (so young it goes over their head) and the not-as-young viewers.  Not so much in a PB in my opinion.  My children did look forward to any sadness in a PB at the age I was reading to them.  Make me happy, make me wonder, be silly, make me laugh hysterically, educate and inform me!
#33 - July 31, 2014, 06:24 PM

I think if done for a specific purpose (to educate or inform, perhaps), a PB with a sad ending can work. The quirky, silly, happy endings are the PB's I love reading and writing best. I guess I tend to equate all things good feeling with PB's, so a sad one seems unnatural.
#34 - August 31, 2014, 12:52 PM

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I mostly tend to write happy books (easier to sell), but I also think that all books, picture books too, need first and foremost to be true (emotionally true). And the truth is that there's a lot of pain and suffering in this world. You can always show a character's inner strength, even when the world has scary things in it. I tried to do that in EARTH MOTHER, although I'm not sure it came across that way.

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It's interesting that many of the pieces mentioned, especially the movies, have sad beginnings. A parent dies or disappears at the beginning of almost every Disney film. The endings aren't sad though.

I don't know that a picture book with a truly tragic ending would sell. By tragedy, I mean the main character failing to achieve his or her goal without learning the goal was the wrong one in the first place. In real life, we don't always get what we want or need from a situation. In picture books, the needs have to be met whether the wants are or not. Even the books that deal with death have the need for comfort being met. Thus, they are bittersweet.

Some of these books make us cry because we understand the larger implications of the story, and have the life experience around it, but the young reader doesn't. 
#36 - September 02, 2014, 08:18 AM
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I believe that picture books don't necessarily have to have happy endings, but they ALWAYS have to end with HOPE for happiness for the main character. Little children of picture book age need to learn that they can surmount the problems that life throws at them.
#37 - September 02, 2014, 11:39 AM
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Hope may be the greatest human need. It's the belief that things can get better, that we can do better.
#38 - September 02, 2014, 01:44 PM
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Tough Boris by Mem Fox is a good one. A big mean pirate cries when his parrot dies. The illustrations and words are beautiful. Sad but somehow uplifting.
#39 - September 04, 2014, 12:47 AM

Has the research been done on what percentage of kids return to a picture book they already know has a sad ending?
#40 - September 04, 2014, 03:06 AM
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