Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not Recommended For Younger Readers

Here's a blog entry, "Not Recommended For Younger Readers", that talks about the appropriateness, or lack thereof, of subject matter in children's literature. An excerpt:

Last month I was talking to some writerly friends about a less-than excited review I had just found for The Boneshaker. The reader felt the story was far too dark to recommend to children, and commented that she was still a little shaken by it. “Haunted” was the term she used, actually. My immediate reaction on reading it was that, intentionally or not (and it wasn’t), it was actually a really great review, and the friends I was emailing responded the same way. I started one of my replies with the words, “May we all live to haunt some adults.”

At this month’s Brooklyn Book Festival, Mac Barnett told a story about the day his third-grade brother came home and informed his parents casually that he and a few buddies at school had started a swearing club. This, of course, reduced the audience to hysterical laughter, but Barnett was quick to point out that if you tried to represent that in a book, you’d be toeing a tremendously fine line. There is, he said, no way to write the life of any kid in an uncensored fashion.

All of this got me thinking. Obviously there’s an ongoing argument between writers, young readers, and their parents about what they can handle. Or maybe the disagreement isn’t so much about what they can handle, but what they should even be thinking about. Or maybe it’s both.


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