When my daughter in law told me that Fly-In Fly-Out Dad made a six year old student cry, I have to admit I was surprised. It’s not that I’m not used to hearing that my books make people cry – after all, with dying grandmothers, kids with cancer, terrible accidents and war featuring in my books, I know they are prone to inducing tears in readers, just as they did in me.
But Fly-In Fly-Out Dad is a picture book. And it has a superhero! It’s bright and colourful and aimed at little kids. I don’t want to make them cry, do I?
And then, of course, I realised that of course it will make some people (children and adults) cry, for just the same reason as it made me cry writing it, and in the same way those other books make some people cry.
The good news Is, it won’t make everybody cry. It really won’t. But, if you are six years old, and your own father is a FIFO worker, and has just flown back to work, and then your teacher shares the book with you, you might cry because you empathise with Tiger, the boy in the book. You might cry because the book has given you permission to admit that it’s hard seeing Dad leave after a spell at home. You might cry because, like Tiger, you decided to be brave when Dad said goodbye, but now that he’s gone you want to admit that you wish he didn’t have to.
Some adults are scared by books that make kids cry. Personally, I think they’re wrong. If a book encourages a child to explore their emotions,provides opportunities to discuss them, andante the same time perhaps explains parts of the situation they may not understand (in this case, what Dad actually does when he’s away), then that’s a good thing.
Adults cry when reading books. And we go back for more. Why shouldn’t kids be able to do that too?