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Customer Discussions > fiction discussion forum

Kids books that are arguably wasted on their intended audience.


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Showing 1-25 of 36 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Jul 2014 01:06:42 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Jul 2014 20:39:31 BDT
Chris says:
I just finished We Didn't Mean to go to Sea by Arthur Ransome, and loved it. Of all the 'trouble at sea' books I've read, this more than any gave me a real sense of how long a person would last at sea if they didn't know what they were doing... and it's supposed to be a kids' book. But is it? Aren't all the best things aimed at children partially wasted on the intended audience? Reading a book like Watership Down, don't you get much more out of it as an adult than as a child? Or are all of you too grown up for kids stuff? :)
Off the top of my head I'd add The Bromeliad by Terry Pratchett to this list, and Plague Dogs... is that a kids book? It has talking dogs in it, but it'd take a pretty weirdly worldly kid to get the undertones.

Posted on 9 Jul 2014 07:05:54 BDT
Ethereal says:
I suspect writing for children takes a particular skill above that needed for adults. Kids need to be entertained and educated. Some are precocious but the aim must be to get them hooked on good writing and they'll grow into undertones. I've never been into kids' books as an adult and hated Potter, though my 30-ish kids are still fond of Pratchett.

Posted on 9 Jul 2014 09:28:39 BDT
gille liath says:
Good question. I think there are cases where an author (or publisher) thinks a book's approach just wouldn't market well to adults, so they say it's for kids. Watership Down is a case of that (though, from memory, it's a bit portentous for my taste considering it's about rabbits), and so are a lot of historical / legendary novels supposedly for kids, by the likes of Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe's book about Finn MacCool, for example, is probably as good as any there is.

There are books for younger kids, too, where only an adult is likely to pick up al the nuances - eg Polly and the Stupid Wolf (Freud would have a field day with that). You don't get the full benefit of Winnie the Pooh unless you read it as an adult, though you probably need to read it as a kid first; it's just as much about parenthood as childhood.

Posted on 17 Jul 2014 22:25:44 BDT
' The Book Thief ' was written as a Children's Book , but I absolutely loved it , as did many others , ' Lord Of The Rings ' and ' The Hobbit ' were also written for Children but were hijacked by adults !

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jul 2014 09:01:22 BDT
gille liath says:
The Hobbit is definitely a kids' book, - LotR certainly wasn't intended to be, although I think it's another one best read for the first time in childhood.

Posted on 18 Jul 2014 12:26:44 BDT
Fiona Hurley says:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland can be enjoyed on many levels. If you read it as a child, try re-reading it again as an adult. Ideally, it should be re-read at least once a decade to see how your perceptions have changed (I'm due a re-read).

Posted on 18 Jul 2014 13:40:25 BDT
Bringing the tone down - because someone's already mentioned Pratchett - Goschiny and Uderzo's Asterix books are wasted on kids. I loved them growing up and one of the best things was that every time I read them, the penny would drop about another joke. Hell, I didn't even get the names at first. Justforkix? Nah, nothing. Not until I read it again at university. I may be particularly slow, of course.

Cheers

MTM

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jul 2014 15:01:24 BDT
LEP says:
The Hobbit was written for children, but not Lord of the Rings. Heavens it's complicated enough for adults to read.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jul 2014 20:09:22 BDT
gille liath says:
I love Asterix, my Grandad used to get them all. I can picture him reading them with his square magnifying glass and chuckling. When you're a kid you read them as adventures, then later you get the humour - but the magic doesn't disappear.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jul 2014 20:38:22 BDT
Yeh. They're a class act. But as well as hopelessly corny names like Ptennisnet there's so much subtle humour too. I would love to be able to do something as good as that.

Cheers

MTM

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Jul 2014 23:38:40 BDT
Nick Pond says:
Asterix!! I loved it!

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Aug 2014 09:30:50 BDT
MTM sidles sheepishly into the room.

I still do.

Sidles sheepishly out again.

Posted on 4 Aug 2014 18:55:39 BDT
Catherine says:
The Mangus Finn Books by Janis MacKay. I bought them for my grandchildren but read them first myself. But maybe I'm just a big kid at heart.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2014 19:15:52 BDT
Chris says:
What I like about a well-written children's book is that they're often as good as some adult books but with all the fat removed. Sometimes I really can't be bothered with B plots, back-stories, flashbacks, and all the other filler some authors seem to feel obliged to add. When it's integral to the book, fine, but a lot of the time it just feels like a delayed gratification device, or just some weight for weight's sake. Sometimes it's nice to just have a simple A-B linear story with no flab, but few authors writing for adults ever do it. Wish they would.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Aug 2014 08:14:35 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Aug 2014 08:14:49 BDT
J.Yasimoto says:
"Sometimes it's nice to just have a simple A-B linear story with no flab, but few authors writing for adults ever do it. Wish they would."

True. Two that immediately spring to mind are Of Mice and Men and The Road.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Aug 2014 14:32:35 BDT
Catherine says:
Haven't read 'The Road', but 'Of Mice and Men' is brilliant, as is all of Steinbeck's novels. They sound simple straightforward stories, but have a much deeper message. The man's a genius.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Aug 2014 21:47:21 BDT
gille liath says:
I agree. Devices like that are usually an attempt to conceal the fact that the story isn't very good. Of course, most kids' books are just as formulaic, like the 130 volumes of Beat Quest owned by my son.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2014 09:09:43 BDT
Mwah hahargh! I think that probably applies to most books full stop. I agree, though, that a lot of the flab is not required. What's more, I think when an author does a genuinely complicated plot properly it shouldn't feel complicated to read. So what you guys are saying about Steinbeck, seemingly simple stories which are full of complexity. That's so hard to do and when someone pulls it off like that it impresses me more than anything. I haven't read any Steinbeck but Graham Green is a good example. I am in awe of the guy.

Cheers

MTM

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2014 14:56:17 BDT
gille liath says:
It applies to *genre* books. ;) I agree though, the simple thing is the hardest to do well - same in music - and that's why the middlebrow often take refuge in apparent complexity. I think part of the problem with 'flab' is that genre books seem to be written to a predetermined length, whether the story warrants it or not. When you see them together on a shelf, they all look the same except for the jackets being different shades.

Nice to see Greene get a mention on here. Admittedly being Catholic helps, but I think The Power and the Glory is one of the best English novels of the C20th. If anybody can tell me what formula that was written to, they'll be doing well.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Aug 2014 12:13:12 BDT
The Power and the Glory! Yes! That's exactly the one I was thinking of. It's just amazing. Give a character a strong moral compass throw some things at them and see what they do.

As for genre books, yeh, monochrome in tones of black with one colour: an olive green, an burnt Sienna orange, a teal blue, a dark blue, a mustardy yellow and the completely monochrome grey one. Even the big publishing houses are doing that.

I wonder why. The only genre I know much about is spec fic. If you go to a sci-fi and fantasy convention you see all these people dressed up in costumes. These people want new ideas and new worlds and they like merchandise.

So, to me, many publishers of fantasy fiction, for example, are missing a trick. If the books have a really cool cover, they can use it for merchandising which will probably net them far more profit. Indeed, if the artwork on the cover is really cool it may attract people to the book before they know what it is. I used to love a group called Lemon Jelley. It was the artwork on their albums that first made me pick them up.

cheers

MTM

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Aug 2014 16:22:27 BDT
Thats a lot of children

Posted on 20 Aug 2014 21:40:44 BDT
Frank Mundo says:
Lord of the Flies is a great kid book for adults.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Aug 2014 22:48:57 BDT
mikayla says:
I can totally understand The Hobbit being written as a children's book, though I didn't read it as a child, I have recently read it and think it's brilliant.

Posted on 20 Aug 2014 23:00:58 BDT
I read The Lord of The Rings aged about 12. Loved it. I'm scared to read it again in case I've grown up and I've lost the magic.

Cheers

MTM

Posted on 29 Aug 2014 20:59:32 BDT
Phillip Pullmans "His Dark Materials" trilogy comes to mind. Excellent (to me) reads as an adult, but I wonder if I would have understood some of the references had I read them as a child. Even a "young adult" may have missed some things.
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Discussion in:  fiction discussion forum
Participants:  22
Total posts:  36
Initial post:  9 Jul 2014
Latest post:  10 Feb 2015

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