When Writing For Children. . .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008
You have to throw out the adult in you. You do. I just heard one of the greatest children's writers of all time say that to me on an audio book yesterday. Madeleine L'Engle reads A Wrinkle In Time herself on the audio book I recently got from my public library. WOW! What a treat.

The even bigger treat is the message she sends to the children before they start listening to the book. She lets them know that A Wrinkle In Time was almost not published. It was extremely different than the other books she had published before, and adults were not ready for the subject matter in A Wrinkle In Time. But as she slyly tells us--children were ready! She would TYPE on her TYPEWRITER (this still amazes me today how these fantastic novels were written on a typewriter--can you imagine?) the story in the afternoon, and she would read it to her three children at night to make sure it wasn't too scary or too above-their-heads or whatever adults were worried about. Her children's responses reassured her, and so she kept typing. And thank goodness for her courage--now the world has this beautiful book, and she won a Newberry Award! The world lost this great writer in 2007, and I'm glad she set the way for children's authors to be courageous.

I see adults getting in the way of children's literature all the time. I've mentioned it before on here with controversy over books like Susan Patron's The Higher Power of Lucky or the "f" word appearing in the wonderful Tithe series by Holly Black or even with instances in my critique group and the current YA novel I am working on. Adults need to let children and teens read books they are ready for. Children's authors need to write books children and teens are ready for. When people are discussing whether or not a book is "appropriate" to be on the shelf, I feel that this is another form of book-banning. Like movies and TV shows, this decision needs to be up to the individual parents and teachers, whether or not their children or their class are ready for a book.

Bad things happen in life--take Bridge to Terabithia or new author, Jay Asher's, book Thirteen Reasons Why--both of these books deal with the death of a young person. As much as we want to stop this horrible thing from ever happening again, it will, and thank goodness there are authors, who are courageous enough to put books on the shelf that children and teens can read when they are dealing with problems.

On my blog, I post about all sorts of books--those a teacher could teach in her classroom without some parents getting upset and those that a teacher or parent should encourage their children or teens to read and discuss with them. On my blog, I try NOT to say--"this book has the 'f' word, so watch out"--because I don't want to be one of those adults who gets in the way of kids and their books. I do mention if a book might be better for independent reading and if it has a tough subject matter because I do think some children deal with issues by facing them, and others need to be led more gently. (Again, parents and teachers--you know your kids!)

But I want to make Madeline L'Engle proud. The world is ready for all types of children's and teens' books. Us adults, who write for kids and raise kids and teach kids, have to be in touch and get out of their way.

Happy Writing!
Margo L. Dill


Maddie James said...

Wonderful post, Margo. I agree with every word. It frightens me to no end when others try to dictate what anyone should read...or what authors should write. Thanks.


Joanne said...

It's a special kind of writing that communicates to the children, often using symbolism at their level with messages that eventually carry over to their adult lives. It's true, the authors must be in touch to do this.

Anonymous said...

"When people are discussing whether or not a book is "appropriate" to be on the shelf, I feel that this is another form of book-banning."

EXACTLY! Not to mention- HELLO - who is ANYONE to decide what books my children read? Last I checked *I* was the one to give birth to them, educated them and raise them.

These same people are generally the "bubble" people. Let's out our teens in a bubble so they never hear the oh! so! dreaded! F word, and that will automatically amke their lives all good? Um, no. Sorry, doesn't work that way.

Alyssa F said...

I think the choice should be up to parents, as applies to thier own children, not everyone's children. Parents banning library books is silly. At the same time, parents should beware of outright forbidding books, since those are the ones most kids will read behind thier backs.

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