Maybe this has been on my mind because this is Banned Book Week, but it seems like I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about what books are and are not suitable to their age level. Most often it is because a broad topic is just “too much” for that age group. And sometimes that may be the case. Toddlers and preschoolers just aren’t ready for certain topics.
But for the most part it isn’t books for toddlers and preschooler that stir people up. It is books for kids 8 and older.
Certainly it is easier to tailor some subjects to young adults. I’m thinking especially topics that have to do with sex, gender, violence, and drugs. But then I’m reminded about the surprises I’ve encountered as a book reviewer.
When I heard that Gary Golio had written a picture book biography about Jimi Hendrix, I just wasn’t sure. How do you handle Jimi Hendrix for a picture book crowd? Answer — you narrow the topic. Golio wrote about his art, painting pictures with sound. He led into this with Hendrix love of drawing as a boy. His death and drug use are only mentioned in the author’s note. The book is totally age appropriate and it works really well.
Because of this, I’m always a little hesitant to say NO that book is inappropriate. That said, some topics are going to be harder to carry out than others. Today, I was skimming MSWL posts on twitter. Jennifer Azantian would love to see YA similar to the true story about the Netherlands teen who seduced and killed Nazi officers. Lauren Spieller is on the lookout for MG that deals with sexual abuse.
I’m not saying that I’d want to write either of these books (okay, maybe the YA), but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be done. And honestly tough books need to be written. For various reasons, there are kids who need these books. Neither of these topics would be easy to pull off but sometimes I think the difficult books are the ones most needed in this world. After all, when it is easy, everyone is ready to give it a try.