Thursday, April 9, 2009

Evil Step-parents Beware: Your 15 minutes of Fame are Over!

I know good step-parents exist. I’m one of them. I have always had fun with my stepsons. I never tried to replace their mother. They talk to me about stuff. When we are together, we’re a family.

With divorce rates what they are, many children face the prospect of dealing with a new parent in their lives. So why do movie-makers and story-tellers try to freak them out with stories about evil step-moms or over-bearing parents? It seems you can’t turn on an afternoon special without running to one of these three themes:

There’s the bad step-parent theme, the football player who want to be a singer and feels pressured by his father the coach (this one comes in many variations), and of course, the absentee father who works too much to spend time with his family.

The Snow-White retellings really started to bother me, when I watched them with my young stepsons. They left me feeling guilty, like I should apologize to the boys for something I hadn’t even done. My husband works long hours, and doesn’t always spend as much time with our daughter as any of us would like, but does that mean he’s a bad parent? We have a family to feed, clothe and send to horse-camp. I don’t think he deserves to be vilified by yet another Disney movie.

I’m not saying there aren’t bad step-parents out there. There are bad people in every human role imaginable. But it seems to me that there are very few themes in mainstream children’s and YA fiction. Yes, it’s important to teach kids to express their emotions and some kids do face such obstacles. But I’m bored with these limited themes, and I suspect kids are too. Why can’t we have a story about a good step-mother? Or a father who goes to a high stress job, takes night classes, and still finds time for an afternoon of baseball with his son?

Perhaps these stories are not exciting enough for cable TV or mass paperback. Still, I think they should have a place in children’s fiction. These thoughts were on my mind when I wrote "A Talent for Quiet." Here’s a review by Susan Stephenson of the Book Chook:

I've reviewed Kim Chatel's books before, and was eager to get my hands on her latest, A Talent for Quiet, (Guardian Angel Publishing.) What a truly lovely book!

While I would classify A Talent For Quiet as a picture book, it's not for the under 6's. I think kids from 6-12 would enjoy it. I know that sounds like a big range for a picture book, but stay with me on this.

Chatel is not just an excellent and versatile writer, she's a creative artist too. Her photography provides the illustrations for the book, and in back, there's a guide to encourage kids to develop their own camera skills. Of course it's not a definitive guide, there isn't the space. But these tips from an experienced photographer help kids get the most out of what may well become a fascinating hobby. Thus the book does double duty as a story to enjoy, and a resource for budding photographers.

The story is about Reanie. Reanie isn't one of those in-your-face, bounce-a-ball, exuberant kids. She's quiet, shy, and not too sure how she feels about her new step-father, Bill. When Bill takes Reanie on a photo safari one morning, he asks her if she can be quiet enough not to scare birds away. While Reanie doubts her own abilities, she's pretty sure she has a talent for quiet. And so she does. Reanie leads the reader along the river's edge, spying geese, frogs, crawfish and the elusive grey heron, while exploring her new-found talent.

A Talent For Quiet isn't a noisy, in your face book. It's a gentle story about a very real child coming to terms with her new life. If you have a quiet child, you'll certainly appreciate the message I perceived: noisy or quiet, we all have talents, and they can be found in unexpected places. If your son or daughter is looking for a hobby, this book could be a great introduction to the wonderful world of photography. If you're looking for a story that explores real relationships, and the caring dynamic between a step-parent and a child, seek this one out.

To me, the book is a celebration of natural beauty, and the art form that captures it with a camera. Chatel's writing is skilled, understated, and expertly leads the reader on a special journey - toward the discovery of a unique talent, in a quiet place.

You can read more about “A Talent for Quiet” in Chatel Village. Share it with a shy child in your life.

Watch the trailer a Blazing Trailers.

Leave a comment for this post and be entered to win "A Talent for Quiet" ebook. Winners will be chosen 9pm EST, Friday April 10th, 2009.


Unknown said...

Awwwwwww, that looks like such a good book. I agree that step parents are villified. I was a step parent and the kids could come to me as well. There is a process of getting to know the child and through that process comes a very special bond that no one can break. Kudos for a book that is so needed in this day and time. Loved the blog today!


Lisa Logan said...

Good point!! I've been a stepmother, which is probably why I altered my twisted fayrie tale about Cinderella to remove the evil stepmother angle. Well, I did include evil stepsisters, though. Progress not perfection? :)


castelane said...

Thanks Val & Lisa! It is a subject most people don't think about. Lisa, I loved your Twisted Faerie Tale!


LuAnn said...

I'm a stepmother, too, although I don't think any of my grown stepchildren (2 boys, 2 girls)consider me evil!

castelane said...

The virtual die rolled a 6, so LuAnn wins the copy of A Talent for Quiet! Congrats LuAnn. Please email me at

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