Books about lying, for kids.
October 29, 2006 4:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books that demonstrate the awful consequences of lying and are appropriate for a 9 year old boy. Subtlety is appreciated, but not required. Any suggestions?
posted by apocry_phil to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, "The Boy who cried wolf" has many incarnations in book form. It's certainly not subtle, but is a classic nonethesame.
posted by ORthey at 4:25 PM on October 29, 2006

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books are in this vein, though maybe on the young side.

Jacob Have I Loved came to mind, but I can't remember any specifics about the plot.

You could also talk to the children's librarian, or the librarian at the kid's elementary school, for good current suggestions.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:32 PM on October 29, 2006

Also, Greek myths and other mythologies always have some stories that deal with this. If you want to do harsh, get an original Grimm's fairy tales. Kids get killed, for good, for lying there.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe has a major character who lies and allies with the bad side, and we see consequences of that.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:36 PM on October 29, 2006

The first book that came to mind was One-Eyed Cat by Paula Fox. I read it when I was 10, and I really loved it at the time, despite it being filled with all of that life lesson stuff, so it must have been reasonably subtle.
posted by twoporedomain at 4:51 PM on October 29, 2006

The canonical resources for American boys on the topic of lying, in all its myriad respects are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mr. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and both are quite applicable and beneficial to the characters of all boys from 9 to 99. The moral quandry Huck goes through in writing his letter to Ms. Watson is so much more grave and pithy than any trivial test a 9 year old may immediately face, that one may think it beyond a child's comprehension. And yet no child I ever read it to failed to understand, in any particle, the awful decision, and its terrible consequences, with which Huck was faced.

If anyone is to instruct a child in "the awful consequences of lying," let it be Twain.
posted by paulsc at 5:04 PM on October 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

I suppose the boy who cried wolf is a little young for him. Or ancient. Likewise Edwurd Fudwupper....

In five years or so, if he's at all bookish and when you can laugh at all this, give him The Reivers. (Or rent the movie).

(Sorry, it's the age thing that's throwing me. Good luck.)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:19 PM on October 29, 2006

paulsc, you reference Sam Clemens, but do not consider the fullness of his work. I recommend, for the young reader, his Story of the Bad Little Boy and his Story of the Good Little Boy. These two cautionary tales will serve him well in life.
posted by SPrintF at 5:59 PM on October 29, 2006

Superb suggestion from PaulSC! Here is one of Huckleberry Finn's defining moments:

So I went to studying it out. I says to myself, I reckon a body that ups and tells the truth when he is in a tight place is taking considerable many resks, though I ain't had no experience, and can't say for certain; but it looks so to me, anyway; and yet here's a case where I'm blest if it don't look to me like the truth is better and actuly SAFER than a lie. I must lay it by in my mind, and think it over some time or other, it's so kind of strange and unregular. I never see nothing like it. Well, I says to myself at last, I'm a-going to chance it; I'll up and tell the truth this time, though it does seem most like setting down on a kag of powder and touching it off just to see where you'll go to.

Nowadays we look at Huck and Tom through the lenses of present-day concerns (usually race). But what Twain thought he was doing, especially with Tom Sawyer, was creating a new kind of boy's literature, more real than the usual preachy nonsense, but still with moral lessons. The anti-lying theme is huge in both books.

If you do read Tom Sawyer to your son though watch out for the racist depiction of Injun Joe. Twain was an advocate for black Americans, but he was racist as hell towards the Indians.
posted by LarryC at 6:00 PM on October 29, 2006

I love the fact that at least two of the books mentioned give something close to the opposite lesson from the one the OP asked for. We have not been asked to teach a scrupulously truthful child that in certain serious moral quandries we must lie, but to teach a lying child that 99.9% of the time honesty is, indeed, the best policy.

The boy who cried wolf, as noted, is the exemplar here. If you want to do it with some irony and a bit of humor, try Matilda, by Hillaire Belloc. Though it is not something a nine-year old could read for himself unless he were somewhat precocious. The original boy who cried wolf is at least as old as Aesop.

All in all, fairy tales, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, say best what is to be said. I like the lessons in The Wonder Clock, by Howard Pyle. (I do not know this edition. You want one with the original wood-cut style illustrations.) The tone of this book is Olde High Fairy-Tale, a la Andrew Lang (where there are surely more lessons of the same type) so it probably should be read aloud to a nine-year old. But the lesson is there. Here is one amazing chapter. Here is another, slightly less serious tale from the same book.

(There's got to be something in George MacDonald too, but I'm not sure where.)

To leave the fantasy world, and to end this long post, here is an oft-quoted piece by Alice Walker, from Fathers:

"I recall a scene when I was only three or so in which my father questioned me about a fruit jar I had accidentally broken. I felt he knew I had broken it, at the same time I couldn’t be sure. Apparently breaking it was, in any event, the wrong thing to have done. I could say, Yes, I broke the jar, and risk a whipping for breaking something valuable, or No, I did not break it, and perhaps bluff my way through.

I’ve never forgotten my feeling that he really wanted me to tell the truth. And because he seemed to desire it—and the moments during which he waited for my reply seemed quite out of time, so much so I can still feel them, and, as I said, I was only three—I confessed. I broke the jar, I said. I think he hugged me. He probably didn’t, but I still feel as if he did, so embraced did I feel by the happy relief I noted on his face and by the fact that he didn’t punish me at all, but seemed, instead, pleased with me. I think it was at that moment that I resolved to take my chances with the truth, although as the years rolled on I was to break more serious things in his scheme of things than fruit jars."

posted by Topkid at 6:18 PM on October 29, 2006

I know you asked for a book, but This American Life does quite a good job of presenting stories that are great conversations with people of any age. Episodes that focus on lying are Truth and Lies at Age Ten, Liars, and Hoaxing Yourself. I'd suggest burning one of these to a CD (after listening to it...I haven't heard these specifically for a long time. Vet them first.) Then, pop it in on a long drive somewhere with the boy. Let him listen to the story. Then ask him questions about the story. There is something about a car ride and sitting side by side that used to get me to open up to my parents when I was a kid. And it's worked with every kid I've had to have a talk with since (like grown students, or my niece or nephew when they were younger).

I don't know if you've already prepared yourself to have a productive conversation about the lying yet but, if you haven't, there are resources here, here and here for parents. I used the first two links and one of the books referenced when I had to work with a student (4 th grade) who was lying repeatedly.

Best of luck.
posted by jeanmari at 6:33 PM on October 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Wish I had a copy, but my daughter had an email that went around about a boy who had to go out and drive a nail into the fence every time he lied. When he stopped lying and began making amends he could pull each nail out. In time he had removed all the nails, but the holes were still there. As with lying, the damage remains.
posted by kgn2507 at 7:15 PM on October 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

When I was about that age i remember that reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had quite an impact in shaping my thinking about what was good and bad behavior.
posted by perelman at 8:09 PM on October 29, 2006

I just ran into this:

"I can tell you, from experience, that whoever said 'Children and fools cannot lie' was one or the other himself. There's only one way to guarantee that your children are telling the truth: Limit your questions to the names of their schools." -- Bill Cosby
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:01 PM on October 29, 2006

Thanks, everyone. He's grounded until Christmas, so he should have time to cover most of the suggested reading.

Topkid - Great ideas. The last bit of the quote from Fathers is exactly what I'm trying to teach him. I want him to learn to appreciate the truth while he's still in the fruit jar phase of his life.

Jeanmari - We're taking a roadtrip this weekend and This American Life will likely be the feature attraction. Thanks for the links.

Again, thanks to all your help.
posted by apocry_phil at 11:07 AM on October 30, 2006

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