I remember when writing teachers would state, as a rule, that children did not want adults in their books. One of the things I love about Carl Hiaasen’s books for young people is that his child protagonists interact with three-dimensional, fully-realized adults, and Hiaasen has scenes with only adults. In reality, adults play parts in children’s lives, on all levels. Why shouldn’t this be represented in children’s fiction?
Yes, Moira. Why shouldn’t adults be an important part of the children’s book world?
But . . . here is a moment for true confession. I used to be one of those writing teachers. The truth is that we were trying to avoid mother-knows-best stories. Those are the ones written about children making cute or thoughtless mistakes until an adult finally comes on the scene and sets everything straight. We wanted to put children at the center of their own stories, and that was—still is—a laudable effort and not always an easy one. This is a strange field where those who do the writing are not the intended audience for the work, and it has always been too easy for adult authors to end up writing about themselves, especially for mommy authors to write about mommies. So it was an important concept to consider, that children’s books—or teen books—needed to be about children or teens.
The problem is that the pendulum tends to swing too far—as pendulums so often do—even to get stuck at the end of its arc. And then something else important is lost.
Another reader’s perspective next week.