Day 8 of Advent Blogging …
The title of this post seems, at second glance, to be rather ambiguous, for which I apologise. What I mean by it is whether, when a writer is penning a story for a child, they need, should or even do have an adult reader in mind too.
It’s often said that children’s films nowadays cater for the accompanying adults as much as for the child audience. Clever jokes, allusions and references that hopefully will go over children’s heads are in the most-lauded movies. I am thinking here, for example, of the Shrek series – certainly some of my favourite children’s films. But then are these strictly the property of children? Should they be?
Literature I feel often has the same tendency nowadays. I was reading Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death with Holly last night and was chuckling away at the various references he made to TV chefs (Heston Harboil in particular), as well as his imaginative changes in names of Romantic poets. Holly didn’t really get it all and I found I was explaining a lot of the text to her and why I was laughing, which broke the flow of the story up somewhat. It made me wonder whether this is a definite trend in children’s literature now – catering for the adults reading the stories to their children. Is a layer of adult ‘sophistication’ coming into this domain … and should it? I am not saying, by any means, that children should be talked down to – not at all. But ‘in jokes’ that are beyond a child’s knowledge and comprehension must surely be placed there for an adult’s entertainment and is that what we want to give children?
Much of the success of well-loved children’s authors (and by this I mean loved by children) is that they present a world that is recognizable to a child, even if it become bizarrely distorted, as is the case with Roald Dahl’s stories, for example. Authors such as Dahl, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, David Walliams, Jeff Kinney and Enid Blyton know or knew how to communicate with their child audience and don’t really bear the needs of the adult reader in mind.
I am not saying this is the ‘best’ way to approach writing for children, but I would be interested to know if the future of children’s publishing involves crafting stories that keep the adults hooked too.
What do you think?