Introducing young readers to Pratchett

luriantimetraveler

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(Context: I'm a teen librarian)

Just wanted to share that today I'm discussing Wee Free Men with my book club and I'm beyond excited to hear what they think and then make "shambles" (mobiles). I'll post a photo of our finished products later today!

Who have you shared Discworld with? I am pretty sure I also introduced my dad to the series, and we love talking about the ones we've both read.
 

Rodders

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I introduced my Dad to them when i first read The Colour of Magic and Sorcery back in the nineties. (Rincewind and the Luggage remained my favourite characters throughout.) I think he enjoyed them more than me, in the end and i remember him trying to encourage me to get back into the later Discworld novels again when i stopped.

Recently, i have started to download them when i see them for £1.99 or less on Kindle. Once i have the lot, i think i'll try and have a massive re-read.
 

MemoryTale

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I got Mrs MT pretty solidly hooked on them, in fact I quite often have to compete with her for my own books *grumble* Mini MT #1 has started on the Tiffany Aching books, and while the Feegle are a firm favourite I don't think they're going to replace Harry Potter in her heart any time soon.
 

Montero

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I always start by pointing adult people to "Wyrd Sisters".
"When shall we three meet again?"
"I dunno about you but I can do next Tuesday."
 

Montero

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The Color of Magic is a good start.

OK, chronologically it is. But not for all audiences. I adore Pratchett but am not that keen on most of the Rincewind books. They are far too much about young and old male nerds and incompetent political manouverers. They are accurate, and funny, but I've worked with people like that and don't need to read about them in my time off. Depending on the person I am recommending Pratchett too I usually suggest either Wyrd Sisters or Guards Guards because they just work better for that person.
 

MemoryTale

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OK, chronologically it is. But not for all audiences. I adore Pratchett but am not that keen on most of the Rincewind books. They are far too much about young and old male nerds and incompetent political manouverers. They are accurate, and funny, but I've worked with people like that and don't need to read about them in my time off. Depending on the person I am recommending Pratchett too I usually suggest either Wyrd Sisters or Guards Guards because they just work better for that person.

Plus The Colour of Magic is just so different from the rest of the series, it's quite jarring. Death actually kills people, the Patrician is a sweet eating petty tyrant, and the whole thing is more focused on parodying fantasy tropes of the time than it is holding a mirror up to society, which is what I love about it.

I usually suggest starting from Equal Rites or Morte, then going back to Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic if they're feeling curios or completionist, although really you can start from anywhere. I got started when my uncle bought me Lords and Ladies for Christmas when I was ten or eleven. I managed to finish it despite being pants-wettingly scared of the Elves.
 

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I did other Pratchett series first with one of my grandkids, he's mid teens now and has read most Discworld books.
I started him with Truckers then Diggers then Wings.
I think then he read Wyrd Sisters followed by Pyramids
 

paranoid marvin

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Though it is quite some time since I last read it, Equal Rites could be a good place to start. A story about a girl trying to make it in a wizarding world dominated by men. Granny Weatherwax is one of Pratchett's best characters as well. It also leads nicely on to the other stories in the 'witch' universe which can be read quite separately to other instalments.
 

Extollager

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I can't read Pratchett myself. But isn't the point that he treats traditional fantasy elements for purposes of comedy? Isn't giving kids Pratchett before they have had plentiful experience of the real thing, like having kids watch fairy tale parodies on Sesame Street? -- another thing I despise. Poor little beggars, there's precious little in our foul culture to nourish their imaginations; we've got to ferret out the last remnants and hasten to draw moustaches on the stone lions for them? Fooey. Of all things one of the worst is to make youngsters "knowing" and "sophisticated" before their time, poor kids.
 

paranoid marvin

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Pratchett looked at humorous side of fantasy , but never denigrated or ridiculed it. He wrote about lots of subjects from football to opera , but in a fantasy setting, and generally with humour - but not always, and his stories could quite often get quite serious. To understand all of his in-jokes, you would have to have knowledge of a pretty wide range of media from Dirty Harry to Shakespeare, but it isn't necessary to understand and enjoy his books.

I would agree with novels like 'Bored of the Rings' (which I wouldn't want children to read) and which definitely is a parody, but not with Pratchett
 

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I can't read Pratchett myself. But isn't the point that he treats traditional fantasy elements for purposes of comedy? Isn't giving kids Pratchett before they have had plentiful experience of the real thing, like having kids watch fairy tale parodies on Sesame Street? -- another thing I despise. Poor little beggars, there's precious little in our foul culture to nourish their imaginations; we've got to ferret out the last remnants and hasten to draw moustaches on the stone lions for them? Fooey. Of all things one of the worst is to make youngsters "knowing" and "sophisticated" before their time, poor kids.

No. In The Colour of Magic, the first novel in the series, he uses a number of fantasy novels as source material for jokes, but they're not the usual suspects (Tolkien, Lewis etc). Instead he satirises Lovecraft, McCaffrey (the entire third "episode" is based on Dragonriders of Pern), Fritz Leiber (a lot) and Jack Vance. He doesn't expect everyone to have read those books so he makes the stories work even if you have zero knowledge of the source material, and in 2021 I'm not sure how many people, even older readers, reading fantasy have gone back as far as McCaffrey, Leiber and Vance given the quality of authors around today.

After that point he stops using fantasy as a source material (apart from the odd gag about inexplicable chainmail bikini), noting that would be lazy, and instead starts using everyday life as inspiration. Moving Pictures satirises Hollywood, Guards! Guards! police procedurals, Jingo war films etc. The books also aren't necessarily about being funny, but move much more towards a more serious treatment of issues, even angry ones. Small Gods eviscerates religious fundamentalism and the evil it drives humanity to do in a more precise and surprisingly darker tone than almost any other novel that comments on the phenomenon (there are still jokes, but you can tell there's a barely-suppressed, intelligent rage propelling the book). Night Watch is one of the very few prequels that actually informs character and world development in a constructive and intelligent way.

Pratchett is one of the very best fantasy writers of all time and wrote some novels explicitly for children (the Truckers trilogy, the Johnny Maxwell trilogy, The Carpet People, Nation and Dodger, all outside the Discworld setting, and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents and the Tiffany Aching books within it). If you want to give younger readers a grounding in fantasy, the question is more why you wouldn't start them off with Pratchett, at least his children's books.
 

Extollager

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"If you want to give younger readers a grounding in fantasy, the question is more why you wouldn't start them off with Pratchett, at least his children's books."

Young readers and listeners have the right to meet elves, dragons, wizards, etc. as the (dare I say) archetypal figures they are. The mysteriousness and power of these figures is a vital part of what they are. Alan Garner said something like this, that such figures have been handed down through many minds until they are almost "pure energy." Similarly it was central to Tolkien's sense of his literary effort to restore to the elves etc. the wonder and otherworldliness that were properly theirs but that had been largely lost in infantilizing and sentimental recent literature. Le Guin says similar things in her seminal essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie." Quoting from memory, I recall her as saying that what's essential in fantasy is a "distancing from the ordinary" -- hence, she argues, the vital importance of an appropriate style of verbal presentation. Parody typically involves the bathetic deflating of the extraordinary into the ordinary.

If youngsters are not going to meet elves, dragons, and wizards as they have been traditionally imagined,

(1) Where are they going to meet what will seem to them to be figures of fascination and mystery? Rappers? Presidents? Actors? Athletes? The wealthy?

(2) Aren't they likely to be cheated of a very important part of imaginative experience? Meeting a parody of something before you meet the original is, to say the least of it, not likely to prepare you for a deeply moving imaginative experience when you do. It's likely to spoil it or at least to taint it.

That's my answer, Werthead. Perhaps you will resist what I have said. If so, before you reply, why don't you read Alan Garner's remarks (in The Voice That Thunders), Tolkien's (On Fairy-Stories) and Le Guin's (I think it's in The Language of the Night; myself, I have "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" as a chapbook, which made a profound impression on me nearly 40 years ago)?

That's all I intend to say here.
 

HareBrain

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I find this interesting. For my own tastes, I don't really get on with Pratchett because I come to fantasy for awe, a Romantic quality, and Pratchett doesn't invest his stories with that. You don't (or I don't) get the impression that he yearns for his created world to actually exist. He is "knowing"; a satirist has to be.

But much as I agree with the sentiment behind Extollager's quotes from Garner et al, I think this is contestable:

Meeting a parody of something before you meet the original is, to say the least of it, not likely to prepare you for a deeply moving imaginative experience when you do. It's likely to spoil it or at least to taint it.

My own very early exposure to dragons included the chuckling rubber creature from the UK TV show Chorlton and the Wheelies, and I'm pretty sure that didn't at all dent my attitude to "real" dragons when I encountered them. And Pratchett's fantasy figures are far less distant from archetypal fantasy elements than that (they are not parodies of those fantasy elements as such; as Werthead says, the parodying is of our world, but using near-authentic fantasy elements). I suspect kids with what we might call an innate Romantic nature will probably either not get on with Pratchett, or his books won't affect their later appreciation for more serious stuff.
 

BAYLOR

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Pratchett looked at humorous side of fantasy , but never denigrated or ridiculed it. He wrote about lots of subjects from football to opera , but in a fantasy setting, and generally with humour - but not always, and his stories could quite often get quite serious. To understand all of his in-jokes, you would have to have knowledge of a pretty wide range of media from Dirty Harry to Shakespeare, but it isn't necessary to understand and enjoy his books.

I would agree with novels like 'Bored of the Rings' (which I wouldn't want children to read) and which definitely is a parody, but not with Pratchett

Moving Pictures under the laughs and movie cliche and trope sends up , there was a very dark underlying concept that was really no laughing matter at all. It makes me think that Terry Pratchett , had he turn is mind to mind to it, could have written some great horror stories.
 
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paranoid marvin

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Moving Pictures under the laughs and movie cliche and trope sends up , the was very dark and underlying concept that was really no laughing matter at all. It make me think that Terry Pratchett , had he turn is mind to mind to it, could have some great horror stories.


It's quite some time since I read MP, but I know that there are several quite dark Discworld stories (eg Nightwatch). And TP was able to write on a number of subjects, and I'm sure that his cynicism and humour could quite readily be transferred to a horror novel.

In all honesty, I've never really considered the Discworld novels to be reading material for those below the age of teenagers. partly because there is too much which would go not understood or mis-appreciated , but more that there are far more suitable authors for that age group (Roald Dahl chief amongst them). But then again it can in part depend on the reader. I read LOTR before I was a teenager, and although undoubtedly a lot of it went over my head, I still got tremendous enjoyment from reading it.
 

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