Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The world is not all sweetness and light...

I found this handy list of 20 Attributes that make a Good Children's Book over at Tall Tales and Short Stories today. Not all bestselling children's books can tick everything off this list but it is great advice if you are taking on the heady task of being a children's writer. This is the list you pull out when some non-believer says writing for children must be easy. And it is given an extra degree of difficulty by the fact that you can't just please the child reader, you also usually have to please the adult buyer and reader as well. I have been toying with a new picture book idea recently and wonder if it is too dark. My last published picture book The Were-Nana was dark in places and although it got a big thumbs up from its younger audience, it was harder to win over the adults. I am heartened by the likes of Neil Gaiman whose book Coraline was very dark indeed but has gone on to great success. Of course I do not have Mr Gaiman's name or fame. What to do? I do not wish to give children nightmares but I also do not wish to paint the world all sweetness and light when it is not all sweetness and light. And I like the idea of empowering children by demonstrating solutions to dark problems. Like the list above suggests - it is all a balancing act to produce a well risen, evenly cooked result that appeals to a wide range of tastes. I'm off to bake a story... after all, it starts off normally enough...

Reggie wanted a pet.
"Mum. It's come to my attention that there is a space in our family where a pet should be."
"I think we should fill that space," Reggie persisted.
"Well, we've got Frankie."
"It's not the same Mum. He's just a little brother. That's all he'll ever be. He won't even play fetch."


Old Kitty said...


Great list, thank you - some handy tips for general story writing too like nos. 13 and 15.

I can see that the difficulty of getting the balance right - between unleashing a child's imagination, but not giving the child or adults nightmares! Personally I always thought the darker the story is the funnier I think. I know he's not quite picture book age but Roald Dahl's stories were so dark they were funny and I loved them when I was younger! Of course my mum thought they were a load of codswallop but that was the thrill of it.

I do see the point of winning adults over tho - they hold the purse strings afterall!

p.s. I hope Reggie gets a nice pet!

Take care

SF said...

Roald Dahl had some horrible characters in his books - The Witches scared the hell out of me!
But when I think about it, yes, he always empowered his protagonists, and the horrible people came to a sticky end.

Poor Frankie, to be such a disappointment!