On life in the wild

So the Adelaide Fringe Parade was last Friday, and while I am still working for the Fringe until the end of March, the Parade took up a lot of my time (and brain space), leaving little time over the last few weeks for reading, writing, blogging, eating or sleeping. But it is done! I will put up some photos soon, so you can see exactly how all those books we rescued from Oxfam Books were used in the parade.

ImageBut I had Sunday, Monday and today off, and I hardly knew what to do with myself! I started and finished reading ‘The Incredible Journey’ by Sheila Burnford, as it was one of the books that I picked up from Oxfam Books when I visited it – I actually bought that one, although I managed to find several wonderful titles in the books that were in the boxes Oxfam Books gave to the Fringe.

I had ‘Homeward Bound’ on video when I was little, and, I believe, Homeward Bound 2. This movie is based on ‘The Incredible Journey’, but there several major differences between the book and the movie, including the names, gender and personality traits of the three main animal characters, the fact that in the movie the animals ‘talk’ – at least, to each other, in a way the audience can understand – and the nature of the way the animals survive the wild is portrayed quite differently.


Correct me if I’m wrong (it’s been a long time since I saw the movie), but in the movie, I don’t think any of the animals kill other animals in order to feed themselves. I’m not saying that this is better or worse, but I do think it’s interesting that the producers of the movie chose to take that sort of detail out. In the book, the author sometimes quite graphically describes the dogs or the cat hunting and eating birds, rabbits or rodents. There is the use of the word ‘carcass’, which I don’t know if I’ve ever read in a children’s book before. The labrador, Luath, also gets injured when trying to kill a porcupine, and gets quite ill when the wounds from the porcupine’s spikes, which of course he can’t remove, get infected. There are other examples of the animals facing ‘real’ dangers, including Tao, the cat, almost drowning. From my recollection of the movie, there were not such ‘real dangers’ in the film. I suppose, though, that there is a difference between describing a bird being hunted, killed and eaten, and showing it on film. Perhaps the producers thought that the images might be too graphic for a child audience.

And maybe it is – or maybe we shelter children from that sort of information too much. Children are fascinated by animals and want to know all about the animal kingdom. Obtaining food is a part of life, whether it be by hunting, grazing, scavenging, or having your parents plate it up for you.

Would I show a child a video of a lion hunting a gazelle, pulling it to the ground and eating it?How much detail would I tell them about where the meat on their plates comes from? I don’t know the answer to that – I don’t think I’ll know until I have children of my own. How much should we shelter children from this information, and how much should we be frank with them? Is a book like ‘The Incredible Journey’ too graphic, or is it beneficial for children to understand ‘life in the wild’?




  1. I forgot about Homeward Bound. One of my absolute favourites from when I was a kid. Thanks so much for posting about the book – I’ll have to go find this on dvd now!

  2. Pingback: On where the list of 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up (Too Much) comes from | 1001 Children's Books

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