YA/Children's/Adult Books

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sun Apr 27 18:36:50 EDT 2003

Hallie and Anna both replied to what I'd written, and I have been trying
very hard to stick to a rule I made many moons back *never* to post a reply
I felt strongly about, *anywhere*, without letting my reply sit for at
least one meal-time and then revising it!  This means that two replies have
been simmering on the back-burner for a while; I'm now trying to make sure
I don't say the same things twice in two places.

First off, Hallie, I didn't at all mean to say I resented your comment that
this had been gone through before.  I was faintly apologetic about perhaps
repeating what had already been said, as I am this time too, but determined
to add my two pen'orth anyway.  No animus involved, ok?  If it looked
prickly, that wasn't meant.

Also, when I wrote

>>(and that is why I can't just drop this: if I back off merely because I am
>>told that there are big guns in the background that would be cowardly, by
>>my code)

I was just stating the reason for my not gracefully backing away and not
responding, and did not intend any sort of personal comment on you.

>I merely felt that you were being a bit dismissive
>of people who seemed to hold differing opinions from yours about even
>the possibility that some of DWJ's books might be suitable for
>different age groups.

Well, maybe I was.  I can see it might have looked that way.  Actually I
meant the specific instance of the book *Deep Secret*, which was the one I
was talking about, not the possibility that each of DWJ's books is
different from each of the others.  And I *still* don't see why it isn't a
children's book if some of the others are!

>Somebody else said it recently about Deep Secret, and I
>agreed.   In more detail about Deep Secret, yes, we discussed this
>when the subject of the horrible butchered YA copy of Deep Secret
>came up.

I've looked, now, at what Christian says were the changes, and frankly my
dears, those changes seem to me to be piffling fiddling with frills.  Darn
instead of damn, turds instead of testicles: big deal!  It doesn't look as
if they have touched any of the things that are of real importance or
impact, from that (but I'd need to read the bowdlerized edition before I
can be certain).

[massive snip of my comments, and replies in which we are pretty-much in
agreement, I think]

>Uncle Ralph in The Lives of Christopher Chant is a very good
>example, I think.  That *is* a children's book, if one accepts that
>there is such a thing, and the butchering of the mermaids is not
>shown in any graphic detail.  Yes, the horrors of 'real life' are
>there, but also, yes, they are presented in a  way which is toned
>down compared to the butchery of the kids in Deep Secret.

There I would certainly agree.  Even so, I think children are not as
squeamish about graphic horrors as we who are no longer children might like
to imagine; generations grew up on Grimm and such, unexpurgated, and seem
to have grown up to be really quite well-balanced in spite of a literary
diet of eg people being forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes until it
kills them....  Yetch!

[snip general stuff about the publishing history of more recent DWJ books]

>>  And as far as I know she did not intend either
>>of these two books to be "not for children".  She has a high opinion of
>>children, and reckons they are capable of making up their own minds about
>>what they read, as she did when young.
>Again, you seem to be ignoring the fact that I have distinguished
>several times (in this set of discussions) between saying these books
>are 'not for children' and saying that they are 'not children's

My error, for which I can only apologise.  There is a distinction, and I
take your point.  Would "not to be for children" be clearer than "to be
'not for children'"?

When DS appeared in 1997, its author cheerfully gave a copy to be read by
her god-child who had just turned nine.  So presumably DWJ herself didn't
think it was "not a children's book".  (I had to check this as fact before
I could state it.)

It may also be relevant to remark here that *The Merlin Conspiracy* is
dedicated to someone whose fourteenth birthday is next month.

>>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?

(I hastily add that the "you" there was intended as generic.  I was getting
bored with "one". I think.)

>In the 'real world', the decision seems to be made by publishers.
>They tell the book shops, who shelve the books in age-grouped
>categories.  At least this is what seems to be the case, combining
>your statement that the author has no say, with what I heard in

Yup.  That is about right, as far as I have ever been able to see.  That I
think it sucks doesn't stop it from being the fact.

>Our 'ideal' worlds might or might not be very different (obviously I
>agree completely about parental responsibility, and luckily *enjoy*
>the reading necessary), but I started off by talking about the
>situation as it exists now.  Which is that books are published and
>marketed and sitting on shelves in age-categoried groups.   Since
>this is the reality, I think  the distinctions already in place by
>the publishers should be reasonably consistent.  And I still hold
>that putting Dark Lord alongside Wild Robert and Howl makes very
>little sense, and could be quite misleading.   I think, if you have a
>YA shelf right beside the children's one, it's careless to have ALL
>the DWJ in children's.

There I agree with you.  OTOH, that carelessness is nothing to do with what
the *publishers* decided, because it doesn't go along with their categories
either...  So in Real Life the system falls over anyway.

I personally think it's daft to go expecting a real author to write the
same book over and over, which is what the publishers always seem to want!
More of the same but different, is the thing, as far as many of them
(honourable exceptions allowed) are concerned.  Which ties in with the
other thread over ---->
there somewhere about BSOs, I suspect.  So putting all the works of one
author together may mean that some are more suited to different reading
palates (not mentioning age here!)  Dashitall, Tolkien wrote LotR, but he
also wrote some fine stuff on Gawain and the Green Knight, which would be
fairly dull for anyone not a mediaevalist.  Those shouldn't be put
together, it would be dishonest.

>I would be happier though if you would acknowledge that I have *never*
>said I intend to deny anyone the right to read any book.

<dons Fair Witness cloak and becomes suddenly and alarmingly impartial>
I can't possibly do that, I haven't known you from birth....
<takes off Fair Witness cloak and reverts to ordinary human mode>

As far as I can see from looking through your posts on this subject, you
haven't said that here.  But then, as far as I can see from looking through
*my* posts on this subject, I don't think I have actually accused you of
saying it, so that's ok, since it wasn't what I meant to do (see previous

In fact I think that what we have been doing may well have been "agreeing
furiously", my Mama's phrase for those occasions when my siblings and I
were heatedly debating some point on which we were not actually disagreeing
at all.  :-)

My position probably could be summed up as "I think censorship is
frequently misguided, I don't trust the judgement of the censors, I don't
think categories are all that much better, I don't trust the judgement of
the categorisers, and anyway as far as I can see it doesn't work, either in
general or in particular cases -- and I can't see why it would, really."

All the rest is likely to be "yes but this instance" stuff, I suspect.


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