YA/Children's/Adult Books

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Mon Apr 28 07:25:54 EDT 2003

Christian answered me:

>the question about whether it's a valuable exercise to group books by age --
>i don't think you've done anything to dissuade me from thinking that yes, it
>is valuable. because while we should make decisions for ourselves based with
>specific evidence, what you are ignoring is that the vast majority of people
>on this planet won't be doing that. do i feel like they (and/or their kids)
>should be "protected" (or whatever) from inappropriate materials? no. i'm
>more of a mind to throw anything as subversive and intelligent at their kids
>as possible because i myself am subversive and intelligent and i like the
>idea of things being shaken up beneath the surface.

:-) Anarchist!  :-))

>since i don't have children, don't have much familiarity with children from
>the perspective of an adult, i can't really honestly say what i think is or
>is not appropriate for them. however, i would hesitate to hand a copy of
>deep secret to someone below, say, 13. judging from my own experiences i
>doubt they'd be interested anyway.

That's the point.  S/he wouldn't be interested particularly (nor pick up on
nuances about sexuality or violence that s/he didn't already understand and
therefore recognise), and I strongly feel that things one isn't interested
in rarely get stored in memory much: they sort of bounce off.  Only if some
great "thing" is made about some boring book (child perspective boring) is
there likely to be any reason to persist with it.

(This is leaving aside the matter of elder sibs saying "You're too young
for that!".  That may lead to defiant "I am *so* old enough to read
*Finnegan's Wake*!" and ploughing all the way through just so one can say
"nyah!" afterwards....  I don't think an eleven year old would be damaged
by reading *Finnegan's Wake* apart from the possibility that his/her brain
might explode.  S/he might even understand it or gain something from it,
which is more than most adults do I suspect.  At that age I loved *The
Master and Margarita*, which is probably entirely "unsuitable"; I now have
no idea what it was that so entranced me, but I do know it was all my elder
brother's fault in the first place.)

>when i was 11 or 12 i read lives of christopher chant and charmed life and
>loved them. i read fire and hemlock directly after and slogged through it,
>enjoying little of it and making sense of less. now do i think children
>should be *protected* from it? absolutely not. but if for no other reason
>than saving someone $6 that would be a wasted purchase for their kid,
>sticking that in YA instead of children's is a useful idea. =)

That is a cogent reason.  So long as it is guidance not prohibition.  The
old Puffin system with a "recommended for readers of [age] and over" in the
inside-front blurb seems to me to be entirely sensible and I have no
quarrel with it at all.  If they had said "not for readers under [age]" I
would have been outraged as a child, irritated as a parent, and downright
cross if anybody had tried to enforce this as a rule rather than take it as
a suggestion.  It's the "not" that is the problem.

Abreaction to prohibitions.  Anarchist, me.  I blame my parents....

I think I heard on the news that the British Government has just banned a
toy from sale in the UK on the grounds that children might strangle
themselves with it.  I await the banning of the sale of balls of string.
Blasted nanny state!


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