The Wall Street Journal back in December posted this article on adults reading children’s lit. This blog is for all those people. The article discusses “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio, a book about a child with a deformity that shapes his life as he enters school and encounters bullies. The thing about books like this is that they speak to children now, but also to adults who didn’t have an outlet for issues like this when they were children. It is just as important to intellectually feed your inner child as to feed your child.
A lot of adults are secretly reading children’s novels.
Middle-grade books have become a booming publishing category, fueled in part by adult fans who read “Harry Potter” and fell in love with the genre. J.K. Rowling’s books, which sold more than 450 million copies, reintroduced millions of adults to the addictive pleasures of children’s literature and created a new class of genre-agnostic reader who will pick up anything that’s buzzy and compelling, even if it’s written for 8 year olds. Far from being an anomaly, “Harry Potter” paved the way for a new crop of blockbuster children’s books that are appealing to readers of all ages. […]
Loving the term genre-agnostic, I certainly am becoming this way in terms of reading books for all ages, but specifically within “genre-fiction,” so fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery.
“People don’t think of it as reading down anymore,” says Seira Wilson, children’s and teen-books editor at Amazon. “There’s less of a stigma.”
The article cites Neil Gaiman as having said he was surprised at the number of adults at readings for his children’s novels, which surprises me. Often, Gaiman is a strong believer in “reading when you’re ready,” but this often is applied to children and teens wondering when they can start reading “adult” novels. The reverse can also be similarly true, when you were little, they didn’t have so-and-so book that you specifically related to, but now it exists, so why not read it? A lot of this blog is me looking for and beginning to read fantasy and science fiction children’s/YA books by black authors, because my inner child didn’t get those as a kid.
Blockbuster novelists like John Grisham and James Patterson have launched children’s books series in recent years to extend their reach, often bringing their adult fans along with them. (Mr. Grisham jokingly said that he created his “Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer” character after Harry Potter knocked him off his usual No. 1 spot on the best-seller list.) Commercial juggernaut Mr. Patterson recently launched a new middle-grade series, “Treasure Hunters,” and will add another, “House of Robots,” next year, further expanding his line of books for young readers, which have sold 27 million copies and now include seven series. Mr. Patterson says he prefers writing kids books to “murdering people on my pages.”
Certainly books to look into!
Many children’s book covers have gotten more muted and mature looking—better for the self-conscious adult reader to pull out on the bus or subway.
E-readers have certainly helped with the stigma as well,–the book I am reading now “Book of Wonders” is an NYPL e-loan–but I encourage everyone, myself included, to drop the stigma and read what you want to read. And some of the best children’s books are written for children so that they appeal to the parents and teachers reading them ahead of or with their children.