As a reader and a teacher
I have read the comments about this book and I am somewhat shocked at the fact so many people think the books themes are inappropriate. Yes, the book does talk about infidelity. Yes, it talks about divorce. Yes, it even touches on suicide. Unfortunately, there is at least 1 child in any given 4th grade classroom dealing with one or more of these issues. We all wish children never thought about depression, anxiety, or suicide. But they do. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in people aged 10-18. A large number of children have divorced parents. Children also know what cheating is. You may want them to be blind to certain parts of the world, but they aren't. We shouldn't just try to hide the parts of world we don't like, that isn't going to stop them from knowing about it. We should talk about these things. Some of the themes in this book are dark, but it's a good opportunity to have an open and frank discussion about such topics with your kids. Refusing to talk about suicide isn't going to stop kids from doing it, it's just going to make them feel outcast and like they are the only ones who have ever dealt with depression. Pretending it isn't happening is just going to make children less likely to come forward and talk about their feelings. Refusing to talk about divorce isn't going to stop divorce. It's just going to make children who have divorced parents feel bad. Even if you think, "well I'm still married, and I will never get divorced, it's not something my kid will know about or understand." I guarantee your child has friend, family member, or someone close them that has divorced parents. We can't sensor books because they are "too dark". We need them more because it helps children understand these dark, but important, topics. Hatchet is a classic work of literature. If you refuse to let your children read books you think are dark you are truly doing them a disservice.
Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak's books cover dark themes like the Holocaust, atomic bombs, and the Cold War. To Kill A Mockingbird uses the N word. Bridge to Terabithia talks about Atheism. Charlotte's Web talks about slaughtering animals. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has the word ass in the title. The Giver is based on the authors fathers dementia and talks about suicide and euthanasia. Anne Frank is about the Holocaust and genocide. Julie of the Wolves talks about rape and alcoholism. The Great Gilly Hopkins has racist comments and stars a girl in the foster care system. Tons of picture books have been banned for "homosexual themes". Where's Waldo has an image of a topless woman.
And if we start banning books, where do we stop? Yeah, this book has dark themes, maybe you think your 4th grader shouldn't read a book that has cursing in it, and talks about thoughts of suicide. But then other parents will want to ban other books for their own perceived offenses. The Wizard of Oz, Charlotte's Web, and Winnie the Pooh will be banned "because talking animals are offensive to God". The Giving Tree for being sexist. The Diary of Anne Frank because it's "too depressing". Harriet the Spy because it "teaches children to lie, spy, and talk back". Alice in Wonderland for encouraging drug use. The Lorax because it "criminalized the foresting industry" and would thus persuade children against logging. Brown Bear Brown Bear because the author has the same name as a marxist philosopher. And the dictionary for defining words like oral sex. And if you think I'm being dramatic, all of those were actual examples of books that have been banned. Don't "protect" your child from classic literature, the only thing you're doing is holding them back.