YA/Children's/Adult Books

Anna Clare McDuff amcduff at math.sunysb.edu
Sun Apr 27 07:59:47 EDT 2003

	More which I forgot to put in my last post!

On Sun, 27 Apr 2003 minnow at belfry.org.uk wrote:

> Yes, but when you say "children", which children do you mean?  Who decides
> what is and isn't a children's book, or a book not for which children, and
> on what basis do they make their decision, and how is their decision to be
> implemented anyhow?
> It seems to me that this comes down to opinions, doesn't it.  Yours, mine,
> the author's, the editors', the marketing departments', the librarians',
> the school boards', the parents', maybe even the child's?  Whose should be
> the deciding voice?  (Who decides whether Huck Finn is a children's book,
> nowadays?)

	As with most things in our society, the question of whether books
are children's, YA or adult is decided by the intersubjective consensus of
all the people you mention and more. And when people feel that their
definitions of what consitutes a children's book or a young adult's book
has been violated there is debate, as is going on now with regard to
Melvin Burgess' Doing It. For example, this link will take you to Anne
Fine's horrified review of this novel and her arguments as to why it
should not be published as a YA book:


	A search of the guardian archives will turn up more of this debate
if anyone is interested!

> I would contend that there should be none made at any level other than
> one-to-one, someone who has read the book and knows the child advising that
> individual child that s/he thinks the known child will probably not enjoy
> that book

	Unfortunately that really isn't practical in many situations. Not
everyone is a parent buying books for their own children. For example
every Christmas I have the fun of choosing books for the five
grandchildren of a very good friend of mine. Now although the grandmother
is a very good friend of mine and has been since I was five, I don't know
her children, who are a good bit older than me, very well & I've never
even met three of her five grandchildren and I haven't seen the other two
since they were babies. So if I was going to follow the principle you
outline above I would not be able to buy them books at all which would be
a crying shame, as there isn't anything much more fun than introducing
children to much loved books. So far I've introduced these children not
only to DWJ, but also to Tove Jansson, Leo Leoni, and many others. Do you
really seriously think that these children should not have received these
books just because the person who gave them to them has not met them?
Now I know and love these books, but the parents of the children who were
given them did not know these books so the primary reassurance they had
that these books would be wholesome for their children was that they were
published and sold as children's books. And as I wrote above that implies,
though does not always guarantee, that they have been approved by society
a large for consumption by children and will be at an appropriate reading
level for the child. In this world where both parents are often working
long hours & may have many children to care for it is necessary to have
these short cuts.


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