Tuesday, June 24, 2014

YA and children's literature - "why does a forty-something Dad read that stuff, is he crazy?" - Editorial.

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. Complex and multilayered - just like your average teen. 
It's the topic du jour, and it seems to have become popular lately to take a pop at YA (and for that matter children's literature) both from a reader and author perspective. 

Adults who read YA have been pilloried for their simple tastes. Adults who read children's literature are  probably lumped into the same mix, and yet you're talking about two branches of literature that have the most demanding audiences on the planet. 

Writing for teens and young adults is no easy ride, and it puzzles me that the same tired old examples of the genre are held up as the mould from which all YA is cast. 

Similarly, writing for children is looked down on. "Oh, you write children's books? How twee!" - You can imagine how many children's authors and artists have heard that at a dinner party or social occasion and wished they had laser vision and could melt the person who said it into a puddle on the floor. 

So why does a 46 year old dad get wildly enthusiastic about YA and children's literature? Well I've got a huge hill to climb to earn 'cool points' with a certain pretty miss who is the real brains behind this blog to start with. Charlotte thinks books rock, and I absolutely will not stop reading children's books to her, with her and have her read to me - for as long as she wants to kick around with her old dad. 

Also, pretty simple really. I've seen the stuff that 'grown ups' are supposed to read. I've laughed my head off at a certain grown up book that comes with a cover picked out in various shades of grey. Not through the sheer joy of enjoying a good book, but at the hilarity that something so utterly banal and atrociously written could become so massively popular. 

BoingBoing published an article today reminding us that one of the paragons of fantasy literature had much to say on the subject of "books for children". If C.S Lewis, a literary professor, thinks it's OK, I'm more likely to take his word over some headline-trolling journalist who wants to generate a ton of clickbait for their paymasters by tuning up folk who recognise the amount of effort that it takes to write for kids and young adults. 

I've been struggling to polish off a couple of stories for children, and though I'm no great shakes as a writer, second best is not good enough for children. "dumbed down" stuff won't cut it. Diluted stories, one dimensional characters, rubbish settings and cliches are not going to win you an army of adoring fans (of any age). 

I've got acres of admiration for anyone who writes, gets published, and gets the recognition they deserve - I sincerely hope that grown ups continue reading kids books and YA fiction, because perhaps it will lead to a revolution in adult literature too. 

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