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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wait. . . are you saying you read children's literature?

If you write books for kids, does that mean you read books for kids?

I get this question A LOT. Unfortunately most of the time it’s a question accompanied by a raised brow, as if there is something taboo about reading books for kids. I feel compelled to write a blog post to attempt to correct what appears to be a misconception about children’s literature (kid-lit): That it’s somehow below other markets or off limits to people who are outside the target audience.

*Ahem* In both cases, It. Is. Not.

If you’re avoiding kid-lit because you think it’s can’t possibly have the complicated characters, intricate plots, or themes you want to read about. Or that it must be written in a simplistic way because kids are less educated than adults, you’re making a mistake and you’re underestimating kids.

The difference between adult novels and novels for kids is often the ages of the main characters – of course the age of the character influences how those characters view the world around them, what kinds of situations they'll be placed in, and how they'll react - but that's how things work in most novels.

Middle grade (MG) novels usually have main characters between the ages of 8-13, and young adult (YA) novels generally have characters 14 to 19. But the characters are no less real, than those found in adult novels. The plots, too, are not simplistic or cliché, at least you wont find simplistic or cliché plots any more often than you would in adult novels.

In fact, I’d argue that kids are less forgiving of flat characters and simplistic plots than are their adult counterparts. Some of the freshest and most exciting books I’ve read have been written for the children’s market. Avoiding children's books, would be like avoiding movies rated PG-13 and below.

When I recommend a book that happens to be kid-lit, and the person I’m talking to eyes me like I’ve just placed a diaper on my head and started singing that I am Henry the Eighth I am song, I don’t feel self-conscious (why would I? That Henry the Eighth song is brilliant!). I feel sorry for them. Their avoidance of an entire section of literature is to their detriment. They’re the ones missing out.

If I avoided kid-lit, I’d never have read The Harry Potter books, Hunger Games, anything by Dr. Seuss, The Percy Jackson series, Artemis Fowl, Fablehaven, Little Brother, The Graveyard Book, Caroline, Between Shades of Grey, The Book Thief, or any of the hundreds  of books I’ve read and loved geared for that market. 

So, to answer the question posed at the top: Do I read books for kids?

Yeah. Absolutely. And so should you!


JeffO said...

Agreed with you, Steve. And I have to say, I had a blast reading with my kids, from Dr. Seuss up to Neil Gaiman and Phillip Pullman. I've also read a number of Jerry Spinelli books and others. There's some great books for 'kids' out there.

Steven W said...

@JeffO- I forgot about Pullman, but I really enjoyed some of his books too. Golden Compass has to be among my favorites. Nothing simple or cookie-cutter about those books and they're certainly geared for the MG/YA audience.

Cielle said...

So many adults forget that they had complex thoughts when they were children, and that that is when we form our basic ideas about the world. There are great treasures out there in the children's and young adult literary world, books that respect that personhood in our kids and have a lot to offer any reader. On a related note, I always go to children's non-fic first for a quick understanding of the heart of a subject. Children's book readers have nothing to be embarrassed about.

~Charity~ said...

Great post! Read 'em with pride :)

Avery Olive said...

Excellent post, Mr. Whibley. Since I write YA I ravage YA books, I eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even for light snacks. But I don't simply read them because that's what I write. I read them because they ARE GREAT. I can't remember the last "original, thought provoking" Adult book I've read that I truly, truly enjoyed.

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