Different Audiences, Different Appeal

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

Learn more about Laura’s newest works at her website, http://www.laurawhartonbooks.com or her blog, http://laurawharton.blogspot.com.


Filed under writing

4 responses to “Different Audiences, Different Appeal

  1. You are the first person I’ve ever met who knows about the Freddie the Pig books! I loved them! Anyway, I don’t know about the others, but many stories I heard as a child were those I can still enjoy as an adult. “The Rose and the Ring” by Thackeray, being one. Steven Colbert did a two part interview with M. Sendak and Sendak said he doesn’t write children’s books, other people think they’re for children.

  2. We love Freddy the Pig and his friends! The deceivingly simple stories are well written, and much treasured in our house. Each offers a commentary on the country in some way (people, relationships, crime, and values) presented in such a way as to be fun, funny, and memorable. We are indebted to Overlook Press for bringing the 1930s series back to life for new audiences (old and young)!

  3. Rod Marsden

    I am not sure how Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books would fit into this. There were 19th Century political notions and raspberries within the pages that adults of the time would have laughed at and enjoyed. Even so, they remain much loved children’s stories. You could say there was something for everyone. Just like mock turtle soup.

  4. “The Book Thief”, set in Nazi Germany is listed as a YA, but to me, the subject matter makes it more suitable for adults. It’s a great read. There is often little difference in writing a story for adults or children. Some things adults understand go above a child’s understanding, and they don’t notice.

    I wouldn’t want children to read my mystery series because people get murdered. But, I steer away from graphic violence, foul language, and graphic sex scenes.

    My husband read all the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to our kids. They all loved them. And we had to visit the various places the Ingalls family lived at.

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