[DWJ] Writing for the young (was Dumbledore vs. Snape)

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Mon May 14 19:03:24 EDT 2007

>Mark Allums <mark at allums.com> wrote:

>I can't really recommend the book in terms of being literally* worth
>>the time, but it is mostly well done, and, taken as a whole, a lot of
>>fun.  (Don't ever forget, though, it's a children's book.)  All
>>"implementations" of archtypes e.g., Gandalf, or the myths about them
>>are going to be imperfect.  It's no reason to avoid the story

Elizabeth Holtrop responded:

>Am I misunderstanding the context, or is Mark arguing that children's
>books don't need to be as intelligent, well-written, or non-stereotypical
>as adult books need be?  I would argue with that, regardless of the Harry
>Potter debate.  In my mind, children's books are usually legitimately
>simpler (in terms of plot, character development, and writing) than books
>aimed at an adult audience, but an audience of children doesn't excuse bad
>writing, plot holes, undeveloped characters, or -- my greatest horror --
>rampant use of stereotypes.  I'm reminded of E. Nesbit and Edward Eager
>and C. S. Lewis and DWJ and many other authors who took/take their child
>audiences seriously and seem to believe that children will not only demand
>a good, well-executed story, but will spot mistakes and inaccuracies
>quicker than adults.

And I now wonder:

Have I posted the "10 reasons I write for children" that DWJ keeps on her
study door?  They are a quotation she feels worth remembering.


1] Children read books, not reviews.  They don't give a hoot about the critics.

2] Children don't read to find their identity.

3] They don't read to free themselves of guilt, to quench their thirst for
rebellion, or to get rid of alienation.

4] They have no use for psychology.

5] They detest sociology.

6] They don't try to understand Kafka or Finnegan's Wake.

7] They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins,
logic, clarity, punctuation and other such obsolete stuff.

8] They love interesting stories, not commentary, guides or footnotes.

9] When a book is boring, they yawn openly, without any shame or fear of

10] They don't expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity.  Young as
they are, they know it is not in his power.  Only adults have such childish

The explanation that goes with this in small letters at the bottom is:
"There are five hundred reasons why I began to write for children, but to
save time I will mention only ten of them."

[This statement, originally prepared by Mr. Singer for the
occasion of his acceptance of the National Book Award in
1970 for A Day of Pleasure:Stories of a Boy Growing Up in
Warsaw, was read to the assembled guests of the Nobel Prize
banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm on December 10, 1978.
Reprinted in Nobel Lecture, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Farrar,
Straus -& Giroux, 1978.]

>I feel compelled to add that as far as the Harry Potter debates goes, I
>fall into the "I read some of them and don't care two figs what happens or
>whether people love them or hate them" category.  But I would like to say
>thank you to Mark for turning this into a discussion, because it's making
>for fascinating reading during my study breaks.  I also like that so far
>everyone is being very polite about what I'm sure are extremely hot

It's jolly easy to be polite from a position of indifference based in
almost complete ignorance.  --Which is where I stand on this topic!

>EGH, delurking from taking grueling final exams

Good luck!


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