April Fool’s Day
by Rita Goldner
My “first day” position in the roster of contributors to this co-op blog affords me the opportunity to comment on many different holidays. April Fool’s Day is the most intriguing. In my approach to this topic, I’m considering fool as a profession. This led my historical research to court jesters, the professional fools in kings’ courts during medieval times.
A jester’s job was no laughing matter, since he was the only person in the court allowed to ignore protocol and dispense advice or even criticism to the monarch, cloaked as humor. He often used his privileged position to tell the king things no one else would dare to say, for fear of reprisals. For example, when the French fleet was destroyed in 1340 in the Battle of Sluys, only the jester could get away with breaking the bad news to King Philip VI. Because court jesters were in the unique position of dispensing both comedy and wisdom, they are favorite figures in literary works (e.g., Shakespeare).
That unique position has carried down to modern days and is being used to great advantage by writers and journalists. All the contributors to this blog are writers, expressing themselves in several genres: novelists, nonfiction authors, and writers of instructional pieces, political commentary, travel guides, exposés, and even children’s picture books (like me).
What we all fear more than the royal reprisals of old is the disinterested ennui of modern-day audiences. Our readers receive a barrage of information every day from various media. If it is just unbiased information, dry and bland, it falls victim to our culture’s decreasing attention span. If it’s a personal opinion or philosophy of the writer who wants it to have an impact, then he/she delivers it with humor, entertainment, or shock-value. Irrespective of political opinion, I’m sure we’ll agree that the communication of opinions about serious news topics reach and hold wider audiences with this type of delivery. Our modern-day jesters Steven Colbert, Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart, Rush Limbaugh, etc. prove my point. Another very entertaining source of information about the serious topic of Washington D.C. politics is writer-journalist Dave Barry. His book Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway in an excellent example.
In my new book Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy, I hope to inspire young readers with an entertaining dawn-to-dusk story about a wild orangutan. I’ve been very subtle about the problems of deforestation, habitat destruction, and endangered species. I’ll raise those subjects later, in the teacher’s guide, through age-appropriate games and projects.
I salute my fellow authors, juggling onward in their belled caps, to bring our readers the important stuff – with humor!
Rita Goldner is the author of the children’s eBooks Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, both titles in Jackson’s Adventure Series. Rita’s forthcoming book, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy, will be released in print in May 2015. To view additional illustrations and other books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook.