Why don’t children’s books get the kudos they deserve?

In the Guardian today children’s writer SF Said asked: “Who today remembers the plays of AA Milne or the political writing of Erich Kästner? Yet their children’s books are read the world over.”

I can’t confess to knowing who Eric Kästner is but AA Milne is a much loved author at our house but even I didn’t know Milne had been a playwright until today.

Said writes that despite the interest in children’s literature since the runaway success of the Harry Potter and His Dark Materials series, children’s books don’t get either the media coverage or prizes that books written for adults do. Even though they can be as carefully and beautifully crafted as any adult book, they’re almost never put up for any Whitbreads, Bookers, Pulitzers and Nobels.

It’s a pity because a well-written children’s book will make you feel #allthefeels using one tenth the page length of an adult novel. In a way, it’s a type of reverse ageism or literary snobbishness that prevents good writers from getting the recognition they deserve.

Said suggests that anyone looking for rich contemporary literature try the lists for prizes like the Guardian children’s fiction award or the Carnegie medal.

I’m happy for the recommendation. We are always looking for new and exciting kids books that the kids will enjoy, and that we will enjoy reading to them, and these shortlists seem like a good a place as any to start looking.

Yay for re-reading
Said also says that while children are often criticised for wanting to read the same books over and over (and over) again, parents should stress less about the demand for re-reading as this allows children to penetrate the many layers that often exist in children’s literature.

“So re-reading is a given for children’s authors. It’s one reason why we try to write books that have many layers and work on different levels, rewarding re-reading by growing richer each time.” – SF Said

It’s this re-readability, he says, that keeps children’s books in print for decades. It’s not just children reading the same books again and again, but parents going back to read the books they loved to their children – or just reading them again themselves.

I’m glad to hear this because it almost vindicates my obsessive childhood re-re-reading of The Belgariad. Almost…

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