Thursday, December 11, 2008

Watch Yourself, Dennis

From the first sentence of his article, Dennis Drabelle and I have issues:

"There comes a time in every reader's life when he or she graduates from kids books and young-adult titles to nonfiction with no holds barred and fiction that draws on the full resources of the language in portraying complex human relationships."

Because obviously adult fiction is more emotionally resonant than children's literature. Because Everyone Worth Knowing has more language portraying complex human relationships than, say, Where the Red Fern Grows. Because adult fiction is inherently better than children's literature. Because reading and appreciating children's lit as an adult is like wearing diapers at age 30.

But whatever.

Sure, his list of "Five Books That Made You Feel Like an Adult Reader" is solid. He mentions a Bronte. He mentions Dracula. But I refuse to acknowledge his attitude that he just had to graduate to better books.

By the time I was 14, I had read Jane Eyre and Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird and freakin' loved them. Still do. But I didn't think of them as "adult books" vs. the children's books I'd been reading. I just enjoyed books. Whoever wanted to give me a good story--whether it be about 10 year-olds or 50 year-olds--I was game. It's like saying only Bach or Mozart wrote good music, dismissing the Beatles or Cole Porter.

One of the most emotionally resonant, interesting books I've ever read was The Giver. It made me think a whole lot more than The Great Gatsby. (And I like The Great Gatsby.) It's a really engaging view of a dystopian society, and a powerful ending. Why should it matter that it's directed to middle schoolers?

I think Carlie at Librarilly Blonde says it best:

"I don't think readers should read only children's and YA books all their lives. I certainly enjoyed my fair share of adult books when I was a teen and I expect that most of you reading this did as well. I do think, however, that children's and YA literature is not to be dismissed by any reader, especially those who think enough of their own maturity to call themselves grownups."