Over on the Entertainment Salon Brian McGreevy wrote a piece about Why Teens Should Read Adult Fiction. His point was fair enough. When writing about the teen age person he says:
‘this human being is building an infrastructure for critical reasoning in a frequently bizarre, paradoxical universe where fairly miraculous and fucked-up stuff happens on a regular basis. Of course adolescents have an irresistible attraction to adult themes; perverse and puritanical an instinct as there is in this culture to prolong childhood, there is a far stronger counter-instinct in children to analyze, simulate, and as soon as humanly possible participate in the challenges of adulthood. This is not to suggest that growing up is a process that should be unnaturally accelerated, or that it can be in the first place. …. But we should be counted lucky when this fascination with the adult world manifests in wanting to read more books.’
My eldest son went straight from children’s books to adult (meaning grown up) fantasy books at the age of 12. He wouldn’t read Young Adult books because he felt that the YA category was patronising.
At one point McGreevy’s says: ‘The obverse of the instinct to protect children from the bigger and messier reality of adulthood is the inability of most adults to experience the mere joy of children. (Why adults should read children’s fiction is its own issue.)’ Which made me smile.
I love reading books meant for children. The upper end of primary school books (ages 8 -12) are my favourite. The great strength of these books is that they must have a driving narrative to hold the child reader’s interest. Good books of this age bracket have:
- A great opening, with …
- Strong characters that get right into the story that’s …
- Well paced, with a driving narrative that builds to …
- A great resolution.
And the very best of them often work on two levels so that the more sophisticated child (and adult reader) can appreciate them in greater depth. Think of the first Shrek movie, this worked for both children and adults.
The other thing about children’s books is that they tell a ‘ripping yarn’ but they will also contain a clear theme. It must not be preached but embedded in the narrative in such a way that all the scenes of the book contribute towards the theme.
I can remember reading the Judy Blume Fudge books to my children and all of us laughing so much we nearly cried. What books did you read to your children when they were between 8 and 12 years of age? What books did you read at that age?
(And the title of this post? It’s a trick question. I don’t think you should ever stop reading children’s books, just as you should never stop learning and never stop trying to make sense of the world).