Kid Stuff, In Theory

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-12-11 21:00:00 No comments

Not long ago a friend and I were tossing ideas at each other about future projects, and he asked, apropos of nothing, what I thought the single most difficult possible project to take on would be. I said, without hesitating, "A children's book."

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Later, I ran through all the books I remember as a youngster that had an influence: James And The Giant Peach (which, according to my parents, was the first book I read on my own); Charlie And The Chocolate Factorythe Phantom Tollbooth; Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking stories. Daniel M. Pinkwater and his mutant delights came a little later. And only recently did I discover the magic of Tove Jansson's Moomin in all its incarnations.

Children's books are hard to do well, because you have to remember what it's like to read as a child while writing as a grownup. Were I to do it, though, I'd most likely take Pinkwater or Jansson as models, depending on what age group I was aiming for. Maybe some fusion of the two.

Another discussion that came up in the light of this was, does it make sense to try and create things specifically for young people anymore, given how easy it is for them to become precocious these days? The idea was, maybe we should just do what we once did, which was let them read as if they were little adults, and not "coddle" them with watered-down vocabularies and such. I didn't agree; I think it makes more sense than ever to try and talk to young people in a way that will complement what they are at that moment, instead of subtly prodding them to grow out of it and move on.

The other thing that comes to mind, and I hinted at this above, is how these kinds of stories appeal to others, too. The Moomin tales are "all ages" in the Ghibli-esque sense of the word. Kids get a lot of out of them, but adults do, too. Nobody loses out.

Tags: children's books writing