I’m rereading Watership Down by Richard Adams in preparation to assigning it for my 9th grader. I waited until 9th grade to assign this particular book because I remembered it as being really good, but really, really creepy and frightening when I read it as a child. I don’t remember how old I was when I read it, but much younger than 9th grade. I also spotted Watership Down on several recommended reading lists for high schoolers. I think this just reinforced the idea I had that this was a scary book and not for young kids.
Now that I’m rereading it however, I’m increasingly of the opinion that the creepy memories I have are not of the actual book, but of the cartoon movie version from 1978 that I watched, and then had nightmares about, as a small child. Because the Watership Down movie was a cartoon, people liked to show it to kids despite the amount of death and gore they managed to put in. My husband remembers it airing on television ever Easter. How festive to see rabbits fighting to the death, but that’s how we rolled back then.
On my current reading, I’m enjoying the heck out of it. There’s a reason some things just hold up over time. Yes, there are a few creepy moments, and a fair amount of fighting and injuries, but the gore is minimal in the book compared to the cartoon. It’s just a group of rabbits who work together to find the things that make rabbits happy in life: a safe burrow, good grass, mates, and so on. There is teamwork and friendship and bravery.
In fact, I’m enjoying it enough that I think I’ll include the 5th grader, and we’ll all read it together. I think she’d enjoy it. Some of the vocabulary might be advanced for her, but not much. She reads several grade levels ahead on her own anyway. Mainly it’s the rabbit-specific language that is tricky, and that is new to all of us. I’ve debated with myself about showing the movie version to the kids when they finish reading. I’m afraid of scaring the memory of a great book with the memory of a horrific movie.
When I was trying to see if Netflix had the Watership Down movie, I found a ‘coming soon’ Netflix original miniseries. Apparently one intention is to make it significantly less gory and scaring for children, but the article still does say it won’t be for very young children. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/27/bbc-remake-watership-down-with-less-violence-to-avoid-scarring-c/
I’m excited about this.