Age-appropriate advice

Would you suggest to a proficient 14-year-old reader that they read The Witches by Roald Dahl?

It’s not the first thing that would come to mind, is it? Especially if the advisor is someone in publishing, who knows about books for young readers. I’m reminded of my Swedish teacher when I was that age. She kept suggesting books that were far too young for me, even if I hadn’t been permanently glued to Alistair MacLean. In English.

The magazine ViLÄSER arranged a meeting between a children’s publisher and a 14-year-old for a discussion on books, and I was appalled to find the Dahl being her first idea when the girl said she likes exciting books.

Even the previously mentioned Petrini crime novels are a little young, although the girl had enjoyed them. I could barely keep up when the next suggestion was Aidan Chambers, which is a huge jump. The girl’s current favourite is The Hunger Games.

In the end they produced a fairly good list of books, including Ink Heart, His Dark Materials, The Princess Diaries, The Diary of a Wimp, and Before I Die.

But why should it be so hard to give advice?

I found an interesting thought in an interview with a children’s author called Åsa Lind. I have no idea of what her writing is like, but like this quote: ‘You don’t need to write for everyone. It doesn’t have to be easy to digest or easy to buy. Better chewy than soft. But still enjoyable, rather like Romanian poetry.’


3 responses to “Age-appropriate advice

  1. What no Harry Potter? I’m very surprised. Also a good book can be enjoyed on different levels by people at different ages.

    I’m 39 and I’ve just read the Inheart trilogy as my daughter has who is just into her teens. We both liked it and I am sure took different things from it.



  2. ‘You don’t need to write for everyone.´ – that is a really good one! When I participated in my writing course in the spring, so many people went in for short sentences and frowned upon foreign words – you might scare away a reader or two.
    What I worried about was that if I wrote like a 12-year-old, I would scare off all the readers I really wanted to keep. And my children certainly don´t like writers writing down to them either.

  3. All past generations of readers who have, more or less secretly, read their parents’ books can’t have been in need of dumbing down.

    I was intrigued to overhear a discussion between the children’s librarian and a boy of about eleven in Sweden. She needed to check his library card on the computer system, and told him with some surprise that he’s an adult. He said ‘oh?’, and then he remembered he had to be registered as an adult because he was allowed to have audio books. It made sense to her, but it didn’t to me. Felt it was none of my business to ask for an explanation.

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