Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why don't more adults read children's books?

I know, I'm a bit strange. But it honestly does baffle me. Maybe there are more adults out there reading kids' books than I realize, but I doubt it. Don't get me wrong - I know there are a few out there, beyond children's book writers and children's librarians and school media specialists. At work in my library I occasionally help an adult locate a children's book, which they reluctantly (and sheepishly, always sheepishly) admit is actually for themselves. Usually they want to revisit an old favorite from when they were kids (a few weeks ago it was Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey, and since that is one that I also revisit every few years, just because I love it so much, helping the patron find that book and talking about it was one of the highlights of my day). And occasionally it is someone who is curious about a book like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, or the Japanese manga books.

But I have no idea why it doesn't happen more often. These books are great! Not all of them, of course -- just like the ones in the adult sections aren't all great, either. But I can honestly say that I am certain that, if I were to pick up a book at random from adult fiction and a book at random from children's or young adult fiction, I'd almost certainly enjoy the kids' book more.

Is it that people are embarrassed? That it doesn't occur to them to see if there's anything interesting in that section for them? Even the Harry Potter phenomenon doesn't seem to have transferred to other books outside that series. Why is that?

Right now I'm reading Diana Wynne Jones's latest book, The Pinhoe Egg. I have been reading her books since I was a child -- the first one I picked up was Dogsbody (published in 1975), and I've been hooked ever since. These days, there aren't many authors left from my childhood who are still writing books (Joan Aiken and Paula Danziger come to mind as ones who died not too long ago, sigh). And the book is -- so far -- wonderful, funny and gripping. Which is unsurprising, since so many of hers are. What a treat to read this book.

Aren't there other adults out there who grew up reading her books that would enjoy reading this? Doesn't anybody ever check in the children's section just to see if there's anything new by their old favorite authors?

I sometimes make my friends read children's books. I bully them into it, tee hee. And they always enjoy them (or maybe they're just humoring me). Some that come to mind are The Dead Connection by Charlie Price; Sorcery and Cecelia, or, the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer; The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares; Holes by Louis Sachar; Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause; A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray; and A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. Those are just a few off the top of my head. There are so many amazing ones out there!

6 comments:

  1. I still read everything that comes out by DWJ!

    And I love Joan Aiken, but I haven't read anything by Paul Danzinger, I'll have to check him out. I liked Sorcery and Cecelia too, but it wasn't as multi-layered and special as DWJ or some of the other ones I really loved.

    Have you read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy? If not, you must IMMEDIATELY! How about Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence? And anything by E. Nesbit? The list goes on (and on!)

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  2. Yes, I love Pullman, and I reread the Dark is Rising every few years (my kids are almost old enough for me to read it to them, and I'm really looking foward to that). There isn't much out there that is as multi-layered and special as DWJ - I agree. E. Nesbit is the queen, of course! The list does go on. I also loved Edward Eager (and I will be forever thankful because he mentioned E. Nesbit in his books, which is how I found her), Patricia McKillip, Madeleine L'Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Nancy Springer. Okay, I'll stop now. But there's more...

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  3. Oh, Madeleine L'Engle, I'd forgotten she even existed!

    How about Margaret Mahy?

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  4. Oh, I liked Mahy, too. Although I haven't read anything of hers in years. Don't you hate when you go back, and the books don't hold up to your fond memories? That's happened with some of the books I liked when I was younger, but not, I'm glad to say, with my absolute favorites.

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  5. I think Dogsbody was my second DWJ. Eight Days of Luke was my first. I found it in the library and was captivated. I'm currently reading backwards through your blog and saw your post on the new DWJ and going to look up things from her books. I remember doing that with Eight Days of Luke. Like I need to add anything else to my dream list of things I want to reread, but I think some DWJ better go on it. It already has The Dark is Rising sequence on it and I'm sure there are some others. I need to get back to more children's books. The memories of them hold so much of the magic and wonder of exploring life through books at that age.

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  6. Kerry - thanks for coming by! I love your little dragon - very cute.

    I know just what you mean about the magic and wonder of books at that age. I guess that's why I haven't grown up enough to read only adult books all the time! And why so many of the "grown-up" books I read are genre fiction. It's all about the magic and wonder!

    I remember once reading something that Madeleine L'Engle wrote (paraphrased from memory), about how if she had a really tough, complicated idea, then it invariably turned into a children's book rather than a book for adults, because children are much more receptive to complicated ideas. Which is probably why she had such a hard time finding a publisher for A Wrinke in Time!

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