Published in 1886, this is a “boys” novel, written as a diary of a 9 year old schoolboy living during the unification of Italy. Interwoven in the diary are the stories of his classmates and their lives. The boys endure the hardships of poverty and conflict, and often display acts of patriotism, courage and friendship. De Amicis based the characters on his own sons. Not sure how “Cuore” reads in English, and whether it would have any appeal to the kids of today. Oddly enough it was embraced at various times by Italian Fascists and communist Eastern Europe. Might seem antiquated now and hopelessly stuck in a socialist time warp.
As might be Arkady Gaidar’s “Timur and his Squad” (1940). Timur and his pals help the families of Red Army soldiers and stand up to their hooligan doppelgangers. The book actually started a movement of Timurites in the Soviet Union during the German invasion.
From selfless good deeds to life of children in the 20th century, in film. No one captures the poignancy and special language of childhood (and adolescence) like Truffaut. In “400 Blows” he introduces us to Antoine Doinel. Antoine is a neglected 12 year old boy in 1950’s Paris. His delinquent behaviour is a result of the absence of caring adults in his life.
“Small Change” is a lighter look at the daily lives of a group of children in Thiers. Nonetheless Truffaut doesn’t spare us from seeing the stresses in the kids’ lives, although in “Small Change” there are adult characters who are compassionate and caring.
The Dardenne brothers pick up where Truffaut left off. “The Kid with a Bike” is an unsparing account of a young boy whose moral fate hangs by a thread. Abandoned and unloved, he shares Antoine’s prickly demeanor.