Children's writing

Different Perspectives

Shelly made some interesting and valid comments on last Sunday’s Reading Roundup. They spawned a number of seemingly random thoughts for me.

How does reading a kids’ book from a parents’ perspective differ from reading it merely as an adult? A writing friend once urged me to write as much as possible before having kids because she found her writing changed dramatically after she became a parent. She couldn’t or wouldn’t explain to my satisfaction how her writing changed, but I have no doubt that it did. So how does being a parent change the way an adult reads kidlit? And can you ever put the parent in you in the closet while you read?


I don’t have any studies to back this up, but there seems to be a growing gap between MG and YA literature. MG is getting younger and more “innocent,” if you will, while YA is getting older and edgier. The poor 12 – to 14-year-olds are comparatively hard-pressed for appropriate reading material. I tend to think the 10 to 14s are my ideal age group.

I don’t know why I’m reading so much YA these days.

You know how Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is a perennially popular graduation-gift? Why-oh-why aren’t there more picture books published for people outside the 2-7 age range?! More sophisticated stories and art than those pubbed for 2-7s, age-appropriate. Stories and art go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults all like stories and art; why not let us enjoy them together?

Frankly, I think it’s discrimination. Can we sue publishers for not producing picture books for Everyone?

And while we’re at it, I’d like to see–no, let’s be honest, I’d like to create–an art show that is a story. Visitors would walk through halls of giant illustrations/sets, see related performances, and hear the story told. Heck, maybe they’d even participate in it. Something like a cross between a natural history museum and a picture book with a touch of theater and music thrown in.

I wonder if that is a sort of personal backlash against the rise of digital media.

On the other hand, I’m looking forward to seeing Where the Wild Things Are in the theater. I love, love, love that the story was “aged-up.” I really hope the script is well-written.

It’s not unlike how The Lion King was transformed for the theater. No one would say that show’s just for kids.

Well, picture books shouldn’t be just for kids, either.

5 replies »

  1. Graphic novels? Too many words?

    Ken Turan said that Jonze created a movie that neither kids nor adults will like. I trust him. The problem of course is that the story has 330some odd words. Everyone’s going to interpret that differently.

  2. Graphic novels certainly indicate that adults like picture books.
    Initially, I wasn’t going to see Where the Wild Things Are. I love Maurice Sendak and this book in particular. My concern was having a movie make concrete what is actually a marvelous exploration of the imagination. If you look at how the book is designed- you begin with words and small pictures. As there are fewer and fewer words, the pictures become larger and larger, until there are only pictures. To me, this is the antithesis of a movie, which has to pin rather than spin images.
    However, I heard a review of the movie which says that the movie isn’t for children. The reviewer’s take was that the movie is for the parents (or other adults who love children) of the child experiencing the story. To gain an insight into where a child’s imagination might take them. That intrigues me, and now I want to see the movie.
    As to whether one can really turn off being a parent when reading- my feeling is that once a parent, you can’t turn that off. However… We retain memories of how we felt and acted prior to becoming parents, those things are part of us and don’t become foreign when we have children. Just as we can write from different perspectives, we can read from different perspectives. The nature of what we are reading is going to impact the extent to which we can do that. If I read a book about youth close to the age of my son, it is much harder to distance myself as an observer of the events.

  3. Good point, Anna, and I agree, Becca, that graphic novels are more evidence that MGs, YAs, and adults are potential audiences for picture books. Graphic novels are great, but I want the big, full-page illustrations, hard cover, thick glossy paper, and great color. Lots of words and more sophisticated stories would be fine for older audiences.

    I also like the Wild Things pb presentation–great description, by the way. The expansion of the original idea will necessarily break away from the pb and become something else. I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m excited about it. I’m not so attached to the book that I don’t want to see it altered or–yikes!–“ruined.”

    I think it’s a gutsy effort because you can’t avoid comparisons, and devotees of the original may be hard to win over. I appreciate gutsy efforts.

    As always, multiple interpretations intrigue me. Another group of presentations based on a single story is Jane Austen’s Emma, the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow, and Clueless with Alicia Silverstone. I love them all.

    Does this mean I’m fickle?

    All this said, I really, really, really didn’t like The Polar Express movie. I attribute that to weak story writing. It simply wasn’t developed sufficiently. Maybe they were trying to stick too closely to the book?