WSJ Article on the Trend of Adults Reading “Kids” Books

 ‘Wonder’ and ‘Dork Diaries’ Are Hits Because of Mom and Dad – WSJ.com

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

Link: Clarissa Explains It All, The Legend of Korra, and Doc McStuffins show that boys will watch girl shows.

Instead, we need to start looking for guidelines: What makes boys watch girls’ shows? I asked several children’s TV executives what their own research has shown, and they pointed to a few common themes:

Find the themes here: Clarissa Explains It All, The Legend of Korra, and Doc McStuffins show that boys will watch girl shows.

This can be applied to Children’s Lit as well. We all remember JK Rowling telling us that she was told not to go by Jo or Joanne but her initials (of which she made up the middle one after grandmother), because publishers thought boys wouldn’t buy a book written by a woman. A lot of media aimed at young people feature a trio, two boys and one girl (usually with a triangle in there at some point).

It works for all media, even adult media: once we realize that, for the most part, men and women enjoy a lot of the same stories, we can get past gender bias in media, which cater to “male” dominated stories as universal, but “female” dominated stories as niche.

Cate Blanchett said it this weekend, women’s stories make money too. “The world is round people!” When we get rid of the deep trenches of the gender bias earlier on, people will make more money and, as the article says, those “kids might just be open to watching whatever happens to interest them.”

Related:

Study finds huge gender imbalance in children’s literature [The Guardian]

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Let’s Start with Harry Potter

Displaying IMG_20130731_184502.jpg

I won’t get into too much detail on this one, because there is enough Harry Potter on the internet to last a million lifetimes. But I did want to put on paper just some of the reasons why Harry Potter became so close to my heart.

I was a shy, nerdy child. I didn’t spend a lot of time with others or make friends easily–these are stories you’ve heard by other loner children. We came to Harry because we liked reading and felt lonely and longed for a world more magical than our own. But me and Harry had something in common. When I was six months old, my mother died. In order to raise myself and my only slightly older brother, my dad and my grandmother each took one of us. I lived with my grandmother. We mostly kept to ourselves and I was the skinny kid with glasses who didn’t interact too much with the other kids. Sound familiar? And my whole life, everyone has told me I look just like my mother, so when Harry in equal parts revels and groans in the statement “You look just like James,” I commiserated. We all know the story of JK Rowling writing a lot of this series in reaction to her own mother passing away and what that did to the themes of the series, so Harry Potter hit a lot of personal nerves for me in terms of dealing with loss early on, feeling like you’re haunting your loved ones by looking like those who are gone, and feeling like you have to live up to the standards of a parent that everyone misses but you never got to meet. And that’s just how I felt about Harry.

What young, nerdy girl with curly hair didn’t feel like Hermione?! Girls all over the world identified with Hermione, that doesn’t really need documenting, but I must say that when I first read her character descriptions (and pronounced her name wrong), I thought she might have been black. As a young brown girl (in the tan range, but African-American nonetheless) with curly hair, freckles, and teeth problems, some of Hermione’s early descriptions felt like a girl who looked, if only a litle bit, like me (me and Emma Watson look nothing alike).

And then there’s Ron. Who suffers constantly with insecurities because he’s surrounded by people who he deems better and more talented than himself. Been there, done that. Again, it’s rare that no one has. But you can’t help but be struck by his loyalty and his commitment to being the friend of the hero. I was constantly seen as the tag-along, the friend of the social butterfly. So Ron’s role was one I knew well.

These are some deep connections to the characters, and that’s just the Trio! This doesn’t even delve into my enjoyment of magical worlds and mysteries and Jo’s twisty-turny storytelling, or that fact that I could hardly escape Pottermania even if I’d tried. So I delved right in and never looked back. Midnight releases and online forums. I’ve seen all the movies, despite being a staunch book purist– many of the book-to-movie changes still irk me to this day. But I’ve still seen them all, haven’t I? I’ve been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I bought a wand. I tried and gave up on Pottermore like most of you probably also did. And I stuck with my love of this one “children’s” book series, even when I shunned other children’s literature (at least in public).

Harry Potter proved it wasn’t just for kids and it made me realize that the best children’s literature isn’t just for kids. It should speak to adults as well, and the child that lives within adults. Children’s literature helps us recapture the wonder and joy and magic that we often lose in adulthood–and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

Enhanced by Zemanta