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30th October 2012

Escape in a children’s story

Remember how fun reading was when you were a kid? Joelle Jefferis advocates reigniting the adventure

I love reading. I always have done. I read because I want to be thrown into another world, interacting with fascinating characters and having adventures that I could never do in reality. Quite simply, a novel to me is an escape. This is why I see no reason to ever stop reading so-called ‘children’s literature’. The biggest adventures of my life have been at through the words of these skilful narrators. I feel too many authors suffer at the hands of demography fascism when in fact their works can easily match and surpass the quality of their ‘adult’-fiction equivalents.

If we turn to the phenomenon that is Harry Potter, books that parents would pick up for themselves after story time, it is clear that the distinction is moot when the story is good enough. So popular were the books with adults that Bloomsbury re-printed the series with special ‘grown-up’ covers. Here’s the crux of it, then, why did the adult versions need different covers? Is it shameful to enjoy a book just because it’s been classed as ‘for children’?

JK Rowling is just the tip of the children’s author iceberg. Anthony Horowitz, Eoin Colfer, Diana Wynne Jones and Phillip Pullman all fill the children’s section shelves with the adventures of your wildest dreams; it seems a shame to forget them simply because their covers are too childish. I have come to the conclusion that books are classed for children simply for their absence of graphic sex scenes. So if that is the kind of ‘adult’ book you’re looking for, you won’t find it in the children’s section (I hope).

This absence, however, doesn’t affect the quality of the writing or story for me. In fact, I’d argue that it improves a story; there are no plot contrivances to make room for romantic detours for the sake of sealing the ‘adult’ label. This often makes stories neater and provides more of an impact. Whereas in the case of the biggest selling adult book of the year, 50 Shades of Grey, messy plot points are cleared out of the way for the real ‘romance’.

My counsel is this: next time you go to the bookshop don’t simply pass by the kids section without a second glance. Lurking beneath those bright or garish covers could be an old favourite or an engaging adventures. It’s a classic case of don’t judge a book by its cover!

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