Six to nine, please

Last week Amanda Craig pleaded with author friends to write fewer books for teens and more for six to nine-year-olds. She would also prefer them to be stand-alones.

I had sort of assumed the reason I see more teen books than younger ones is that I ask for older books more often, and I do so because deep down I am trying to please myself. It is perfectly feasible for adults to enjoy books intended for 6 to 9, but it’s rarer. I find quite a few good ones, but would still not pick them for pleasure reading.

Except, Amanda went on to say she wanted more Eva Ibbotson style books, and I somehow think of those as a little older. My own former six-year-olds would not have coped with an Ibbotson novel. Although, I could have read to them from her books.

Anyway, maybe there really are fewer young books being published. It would make sense. We get an excess of vampires because they are considered big business. I expect we have a glut of YA novels for the same reason.

My automatic reaction to Amanda’s plea was to feel that they can read books from the past. As with so many other things in life, you can recycle books. By that I mean that what a six-year-old read five or 15 or 50 years ago, can be read by a new six-year-old today. Almost. The books from when I was that age might be more suited to slightly older children today, because we were so much ‘more mature.’

It’s obvious that a reviewer needs new material to review. And bookshops might like fresh books, but a book sold is a book sold, whatever age. The wonderful thing about six-year-olds is that we get new ones every year. So they can (be made to) read what older generations read before them.

Lucy Boston, The Children of Green Knowe

I’d not really stopped to consider this before. I’ve felt uncomfortable with reading and reviewing mainly older books, but telling myself since I do this for me, I have to enjoy what I read. But once I’d got this far, I felt happier, because if I’m not ignoring new books because they haven’t been written, I can actually concentrate on catching up with classics for younger ages. There is much that I never got round to before.

Having found the first Green Knowe book in the mobile library about ten years ago I was keen to read the rest. Couldn’t find them anywhere. More recently I saw that someone was re-issuing them and asked the publisher, but got no reply. They’d be just right now, wouldn’t they? Children. History. Fantasy.

But Amanda is mostly right. Why ignore some age groups? And stand-alones are always good.


7 responses to “Six to nine, please

  1. I do see her point, but the trouble is that younger reader do love the comfort of revisiting the same characters. Also, every book requires the same amount of marketing effort (from the authors as well as the publisher). I have had to nod and smile often when librarians say ‘oh, I love that you write stand-alones, it means I don’t need to buy the full set for my library’. In an uncertain market, I complete understand why writers and publishers for this age group stick to series.

  2. I was just thinking about the Green Knowe series the other day and will hunt them down, I hope they aren’t as hard to find as it has been for you, or were you looking for early editions as well?

  3. Lechaise, I was hoping for review copies of the newly reissued books, after having read about them in some publishing news somewhere. But I didn’t even get a ‘no’ for reply. They do seem to be available online, at least used. The library, however, never had more than the first book.

    Elen, I never got round to reading your first book (it’s still sitting there, waiting, full of hope…), but with you at least I didn’t have to skip the second book because I’d not read the one before. Very positive.

    As for series, surely the fervent fans of Horrid Henry and Mr Gum grow up after a while, so it will be new readers who need the ‘comfort’? I didn’t finish Roald Dahl because Son moved on to other things, and I preferred to go Dahl-less and not miss out on Philip Pullman.

  4. I’m hoping that the next book I write will be a little ‘younger’ in that respect. With my current series in progress I’ve been creeping up and up the age range (because the characters too are ageing) until I’m definitely well into YA territory (which I never set out to do). Writing specifically for children, as opposed to mini-adults, is difficult indeed.

  5. Glad to see the old books mentioned in this way! I have lots and lots that are out of print and could be revived. I WISH!! And speaking of Green Knowe, I have reviewed Lucy Boston’s Memoirs on the Awfully Big Blog reviews. And written about Hemingford Grey on the History Girls blog. I will send you the link, Bookwitch, on an email!

  6. Yeah, that’s another thing. Publishers could publish books again. Just as we don’t need a new sofa because it’s Christmas, we don’t necessarily need new new books all the time.

  7. Completely agree, Lucy Boston, Joan Aiken, Roald Dahl, they are glorious and need another outing, rather than new-the-same-but-not-the-same stories.
    Ann, the first Green Knowe book is lovely but not the best. You need to tead them all; you are missing out. Can lend my tatty ancient copies if you like.

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