Eight years after this post first ran, I’m still thinking about this.
I few weeks ago I shared a link to a blog post by teacher Colby Sharp. In it he talked about picking up a middle grade book and feeling like he’d seen it all before. Then he read these words by author Linda Urban:
Reviewers say: “Not *another* sad animal book!” or “Had my fill of theme X!” You are adults. You have been reading a long time.
— Linda Urban (@lindaurbanbooks) July 31, 2015
Colby went on to say “middle grade books are not about you and me” (in other words, the adults out there).
I’ve thought so much about Colby’s and Linda’s words these past few months. They’ve helped me solidify some of my ideas about children’s literature, actually. While I will always, always, always believe a good book is a good book for everyone, regardless of age (though not all books are for every reader, which is another discussion entirely), Linda has reminded me that children’s literature is first and foremost for children.
Of course I know this, but I think sometimes I bring an outside perspective (as both reader and writer) that doesn’t always serve the work best. Rather, this is where I’d like my focus to be:
- If this book is for a young reader, what is it they’ll discover that will be meaningful and ring true?
- What am I willing to say as an author that might feel trite or old news to the grow ups but could be new and important to young readers?
- Am I willing as a reader not to have my needs met first when I am reading middle grade?
I’m curious what readers here think.