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Let me explain.

My book is about a little boy directed by a "wolf" to burn his farm's sheep. Consequently, it burns on the grass and his house, making him kill or seriously injure most of his family. The facility takes him afterward. It's actually a place to raise children in an animal environment who were previously tragically associated with animals. At the end of the book, our character is killed by being taken to an international children's' meat processor on an island.

I want to make this a children's book, but after looking at darker examples, the closest they get are hunted dolls with happy endings. I need help. Should my story be geared towards those who are older instead? Or should I try and find a way to make these hidden themes subtle? If so, what are some universal tips for doing so? Or is this plot just not suitable for children at all?

The book is aimed at children aged 5-9.

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    What "themes" are you trying to deal with for little kids that requires having the kid kill their own family and then be chopped up for food? – JRE Dec 2 '20 at 16:00
  • @JRE Good question. The theme is not to listen to everyone and anything, or bad consequences are to come. Basically... don't talk to strangers. The "wolf" is actually an employee from the meat process that works with the other one.. they were in a wolf suit. So they're an obvious stranger. So yes... don't talk to strangers or something bad could happen to you. – Marthra Rock Dec 2 '20 at 16:14
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    Don't forget that Grimms' Fairy Tales are remarkably gruesome, Children have been told tales of death and cannibalism for generations. – Chenmunka Dec 2 '20 at 16:21
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    Personally, this does not sound like an appropriate theme for a children's book. Go ahead and write it if you choose, but I would not write it toward a children's audience. However, with that in mind, it would be better if you made it lighthearted in a way. You know how in Series of Unfortunate Events, the author warns you in a funny way not to read the book and the narrator in the television series is grim, but in an ironic sort of way? You should aim for that. – Nai45 Dec 2 '20 at 16:34
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Your question is: Could this plotline be geared to young children? Honestly, I would deliver a strong no.

How many books are there for 5-year-olds which involve such a degree of violence including accidental murder of parents and then having a young boy die while being taken to a child meat packing plant?

Unless you make it more lighthearted like how I suggested in comments (making it silly and ironic), as Chris answered - it would not be appropriate for young children and no publisher would publish it.

I also see your comment on Chris' answer:

The reason why is because today's youth aren't really prepared for the outside world. I've heard from one source that 1 in 4 victims of trafficking are children. Obviously, any is one too many, but little kids who barely begun to live? Most traffickers aren't somebody the victim knows. If the librarians, teachers, and parents cared about child safety and didn't want to sugar-coat it, they'd do the book, because things like this happen and are more than real

Don't get me wrong, it's a good idea to educate kids on that and it would probably work for older audiences, but it is a touchy topic that is controversial on how to teach to young children. If I were you, I would consider the following:

  • If you absolutely need to publish this for young children, you should make it more lighthearted and subtle, because if you end your book with the mc dying while going to a meatpacking factory you will totally terrify your young audience in an unneeded way.

  • If you care about this topic and decide not to write it for children, you should write a novel for older kids directly addressing it instead of dancing around it with animals and such.

If you do write this book according to point B, you need to do lots of research to make your book as factual as possible.

Does this help?

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  • I suppose it does. My issue with this is that Little Red Riding Hood didn't have to beat around the bush, or Hansel and Gretel. Why must this one? What's the difference? – Marthra Rock Dec 2 '20 at 20:47
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    @MarthraRock Well, first of all, Little Red Riding Hood had a happy ending. Second of all, she didn't murder most of her family, and third of all, the bad guy is a silly and greedy wolf, not an international child meat packing facility. Those are the differences. – Nai45 Dec 3 '20 at 1:34
  • @lan54 I want to say that I'm surprised that you aren't aware of the violence in video games, but I'm not. How come Fortnite isn't banned? Isn't it truly just a mass murder of 99 individuals? – Marthra Rock Dec 3 '20 at 17:50
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    @MarthraRock Fortnite has a huge amount of controversy constantly circling around it. It is not supposed for anyone under 12 years old (yet many young players break this rule), and technically, you can't really 'ban' Fortnite. The game is themed to kill. The audience is intended for teens. Nothing you can do about that. Like the other answer - while kids may download Fortnite, librarians, educators, parents, and publishers will distribute your book, and most librarians, educators, parents, and publishers disapprove of Fortnite and would not distribute anything of that sorts to young children. – Nai45 Dec 3 '20 at 18:30
  • @MarthraRock Don't forget that you can mark this answer as accepted if it was the most helpful answer by clicking the checkmark underneath the vote total next to my answer. – Nai45 Feb 3 at 1:12
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No mainstream publisher would publish this as a picture book, because this is not a book that parents would buy for picture-book aged children. A niche publisher MIGHT do it as an ironic art piece in the form of a picture book, but meant for adults, but even that is a stretch.

I think what you are actually contemplating is NOT a picture book, but rather a graphic novel, which is a image-driven work typically aimed at adults. Graphic novelists often gravitate to macabre themes, and your concept wouldn't be out of line with some of the things I've read in that format.

If you do specifically want to target this towards an audience of young children, I would have to ask why, and what you think they would gain from it. Keep in mind, as well, that picture books are not bought by children, but for children, by teachers, parents, and librarians, who tend to be protective and conservative in their book choices.

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  • The reason why is because today's youth aren't really prepared for the outside world. I've heard from one source that 1 in 4 victims of trafficking are children. Obviously, any is one too many, but little kids who barely begun to live? Most traffickers aren't somebody the victim knows. If the librarians, teachers, and parents cared about child safety, and didn't want to sugar-coat it, they'd do the book, because things like this happen and are more than real. – Marthra Rock Dec 2 '20 at 17:15
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    @MarthraRock: Could you cite that source. You should also pay close attention to what a "Child" is defined as in the study (0-12 years old? 0-19? 0-26? Yes I've seen one study that counted 26 year olds as children. As many great minds have said, there are three types of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics) as well as the scope of the study's statistics (i.e. Global or specific to one country. Keep in mind each country has it's own reporting metric and crime stats compared to various countries are notoriously difficult to find any discernable meaning). – hszmv Dec 2 '20 at 18:09
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    Well, keep in mind that classic fairy tales like "Little Red Riding Hood" are already about "stranger danger." But if you're really committed to this concept, I think you'd have to present openly as a metaphor for trafficking, and include a discussion guide section to help parents or teachers unpack it. You'd probably want to partner with an expert on the subject and/or a mental health professional as well. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Dec 2 '20 at 18:31

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