Sunday, July 31, 2011

Children's Lit with Adult Appeal

I was reading The Wikkeling, a new children's book that caught my eye, thoroughly enjoying myself, when I began to wonder about children's authors' intentionality in creating works with adult appeal. Some of the things that I find humorous in children's literature seem to be distinctly written to an adult audience, but do kids see the humor? I know there is a larger crossover audience than in the past, after the successes of Harry Potter and his ilk. I suppose the question is how much intent is there on the part of the author. Picture books are obviously ripe for this effort, as most of them are read (and purchased) by parents to children. However, I feel most children's authors of chaptered books will probably disclaim any purposeful attempt to appeal to adults beyond the merits of their general writing style.

As many readers do, I occasionally feel nostalgic for a childhood favorite and indulge in a reread. Some hold up better than others to an adult's scrutiny. I am sure much depends on how cynical I am feeling as well as how complicated adult life seems at the moment. I can say that I have less patience for obvious plot devices, plot holes, and formulaic story lines, making some rereads less enjoyable than anticipated. In some ways it is quite sad to realize that much of what I read as a child(which could be anything - I was a voracious reader), I would not recommend to a child today. But maybe that's just my peevishness showing; I also would not recommend many popular current books and series, since gross out humor has never appealed to me.

Without further ado, here are some lesser known children's books that stand up to an adult's more discriminating (we assume!) taste:

  • The True Meaning of Smek Day by Adam Rex

  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak

  • The Gates by John Connolly

  • The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson

  • Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

  • Uglies series by Scott Westerfield

  • Kiki Strike series by Kirsten Miller

  • Derby Girl by Shauna Cross

  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

  • A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

  • A Long Way from Chicago series by Richard Peck

  • If you need more recommendations, try the Newbery Medal Award winners and Honor Books.

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