Caught by surprise

Oooh, I'm so happy. I just got a comment on something I wrote back in December. That means someone was interested enough in my current posts to go back and start from the beginning.

Anyway, it was a great comment. I had written about The Dark is Rising: "Please don't think it's a kids' book. It's not. It's a very sophisticated good vs. evil story, full of complexity and ambiguity." Arethusa said: "Well I am of the opinion that a book can be a "kid's book" and sophisticated at the same time."

So, what makes something a kids' book? I agree that children's lit can be sophisticated. The Hundred Dresses is based on a sophisticated idea -- that you can be culpable merely because you didn't try to prevent someone else from doing harm. And it's certainly a kids' book. It's part of the third grade curriculum here. And I have read "sophisticated" picture books for preschoolers, such as The Salamander Room and Grandfather Twilight, that I adore and will never tire of.

But there is something about The Dark is Rising. Last year I read the His Dark Materials trilogy, which is much the same genre. A friend of mine recommended it to me in such glowing terms that I went out and bought the whole series. And I liked it. But didn't love it. It felt like it was written for kids. It had some really cool ideas and gimmicks, but just didn't have the depth I'd hoped for, especially considering that so much of the plot was religion-related.

Here are some ideas I had for defining children's literature:

1. Empirical. How many kids versus adults liked it?

2. Author's intended audience.

3. Main characters are children. (I can already think of lots of books in this category that wouldn't be appropriate for kids.)

4. Half-serious: where the book is located in the library.

And, oh, what about "young adult" books? I know a lot of people consider Orson Scott Card (of all the Mormon science fiction writers out there, he's my fave) to be a young adult writer, but I know for a fact that Ender's Game is in the adult section of my public library. And I'd bet good money that Card didn't intend it to be a kids' book. And the main character is a small child. Hmmm.

Thoughts, anyone?


  • I'm re-reading the Ender series right now, and in the new edition, Card mentions that he never expected children to read the novels, Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow, but is pleased to know that they do and that they can identify with the children and their world that he created as an adult.

    Like the blog.

    posted by Blogger Tamara on 1:20 PM  

  • There is really nothing better than getting comments on your blog! Sometimes I write my blogs early on in the day, and get sad if no-one comments, but then I wake up the next morning and there a loads of them! I guess I just forget that SOME people go to work and don't have access to a computer while there....

    Either way, I love getting comments!

    posted by Blogger Andi on 6:46 PM  

  • Things for kids are becoming more and more sophisticated. There is a big difference now between Cinderella and The Incredibles. There are so many jokes in those films that seem deliberately aimed at adults. And have you seen the kids' clothing section lately ?

    posted by Blogger Jay on 8:14 PM