|Hansel und Gretel|
One of the interesting aspects of watching my pal/novel Jacob Wonderbar enter the world has been the reaction of the people who reside outside of the book blogosphere.
I’ve been living/virtual-breathing in the book world for so long I forget there are adults out there who don’t make a habit of reading children’s books. Most book-related people I know, even those who work on the adult side, dabble with the occasional children’s book.
But outside of the book world? Not so!
Some adults, I suspect, don’t feel as if they’re, like, allowed to read children’s books.
Now, yes, I realize that when applied to my particular situation, such mundane affairs as exploding galaxies, space buccaneers, and planets full of substitute teachers are not for everyone. Heck, I recently found out some people don’t even eat corndogs. Not even the veggie kind!! (I KNOW. I was as floored as you are).
But hey, adults out there! If you’re not reading children’s books these days you are missing out. These books are for you too.
A Golden Age of Children’s Literature
Leaving aside my own work, which I may have a passing bias about, as my former colleague agent Sarah LaPolla recently posted, few genres have experienced as much growth and innovation as young adult literature in the last thirty-plus years. If you haven’t read a children’s novel since, well, you were a child, you have missed one of the great renaissances in modern books.
To be sure, great books for children go back a long time, and there have been beloved classics stretching back for the last few hundred years. But what has changed is that books for children are delving deep into life as it is actually lived by children, and especially teens. They’re stepping up the adventure and inventing worlds as rich and textured as anything written for adults.
The bar has been raised.
And they’re attracting a lot of adult readers in the process. The genre is hot. But even still I’m surprised by the number of holdouts.
Sure, you’ve probably heard of the incredibleness that is Harry Potter. (Though I continue to be amazed/scandalized at the number of people who haven’t read it.) It’s a good bet you’ve heard of Twilight, and maybe you’re even familiar with The Hunger Games.
These are just the tip of the iceberg, my friends.
What’s incredible about the new children’s books is that they pack so much meaning into a genre that requires a level of pacing and plotting that will still keep a child or teen’s attention. And these talented writers pull it off in incredible fashion. They’re among the very best books being written today, by some of the world’s most talented authors.
There are books capturing the beautiful and painful reality of childhood in a way that’s rarely been done before. Books like Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron and Looking for Alaska by John Green and Crank by Ellen Hopkins and The 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard, and many many more.
There are books that are taking adventure and fascinating worlds to uncharted heights, such as Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, the Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, and many many more.
I’m leaving so so so many wonderful ones out, more than anyone can count, and I hope people will fill in the gaps with their favorites in the comments section.
Suffice to say: there are some incredible children’s books out there.
Yes, let’s get this out of the way: you’re not the target audience of these books. Yes, they are primarily for kids. But you know what? That’s a good thing! Because reading through the eyes of a child takes you back to childhood in a really wonderful way. It makes you remember, it makes you think, and it makes you look at adult life again through an exhilarating new prism.
These aren’t your grandparent’s children’s books. Heck, they’re not even your children’s books. They’re a breed apart and you’d be hard pressed to read a popular book geared toward 8-year-olds and up that you wouldn’t be entertained and enchanted by.
Children’s books aren’t just for children anymore. Please spread the word.
(And if you’re looking for a place to start, might I suggest Mr. Wonderbar and his cosmic adventure?)