Explorations: my author blog

Excellence and children's literature

I expect most fans of young adult literature will have come across this article by Ruth Graham. For those who haven’t, here is my summary of the author’s main points. She insists that young adult literature really is inferior to literary fiction for adults, lacking in nuance and craft, and those adults who read it ought to feel ashamed of themselves. There has been a lot of outraged commentary from people like me, who read and write young adult literature. But I’m not sure anyone made the basic point a library patron recently made to me. *

This is a bright woman and an avid reader. I’d suggested Francisco X Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World to members of the adult book club. This woman took it out. She came to me to tell me how much she enjoyed it, and how impressed she was. “I read a lot of books,” she said. “ Most of them are very good.  Only a few are excellent. This was excellent. I’d be happy to read it again.”

Exactly! The care Stork uses to bring readers to share Marcelo’s perceptions and growth  -- the sheer craftsmanship of the writing – is remarkable. This is, quite simply, a good story. The same is true of many other books for children and teenagers. Catherine Fisher’s use of myth and literature and her sometimes breathtaking prose; Naomi Shihab Nye’s fluid language and warm humanity; Vicki Groves’s transposition of Greek myths to the modern Midwest; Megan Whalen Turner’s twisty, well-thought-out plots and the moral and social issues she raises; Michelle Paver’s clean prose and her sheer skill as a storyteller – these are writers I am always happy to read. And there are many other fine and skilled authors writing for youth. I could easily list twenty more I admire, and I’m sure many of you could, as  well.