By Laura S. Wharton, author of The Pirate’s Bastard and other titles
The old television show with the two adopted boys living a new fancy life came to mind the other day. “Whatyoutalkingabout?” was the catch phrase of the show. I almost let that phrase slip between my lips in answer to a question about how I could write for adults as well as children.
Different strokes for different folks. In other words, considering an audience’s reading level is key before telling any kind of story. If you’re a parent and you’ve read countless children’s books to your kids at night as I have to my son—a bedtime ritual that creates life-long readers, by the way—and then read yourself to sleep with a book of your own choosing, you can easily see the what I mean. They are all stories. Different, yet the same in many respects.
First, the obvious differences: length, plot complication, pictures (or lack thereof), details, subject matter, and ease of reading all come to mind when I review my son’s bookshelf and the stack of books beside my bed. Yet there are similarities. There are a few central characters, there’s a plot, there’s an arc of action and resolution, and in many of the books we read in this house, there’s an element of humor.
If a story contains similar traits, what difference does it make if it’s for children or adults? It just makes sense that a good story is a good story, regardless of the audience.
Read any good children’s books lately? Here are a few what I would call “cross over” books—well written and able to hold the attention of adults as well as advanced children readers. Add to the list as you will. I’d love to hear your suggestions.
1. Ted Bell’s books, Nick of Time and Time Pirate
2. Anthony Horowitz’s masterful spy books, the Alex Rider series
3. Walter R. Brooks’ classics, the Freddy the Pig series
4. Jenny Nimmo’s Charlie Bone series