Children’s literature spans across all genres and engages readers of every level, from child, to youth, to adult. This week I interviewed some of the ASPA authors who specialize in books for kids.
Kids read all sorts of books these days! What does “children’s literature” mean to you?
“I have a fairly broad scope when I define children’s literature. Personally, there isn’t much I wouldn’t let my children read. If they are interested and they are capable of understanding the book I will usually let them read it… I see children’s literature as anything that gets them reading. If that’s a novel or a comic book, as long as they want to read it, it’s literature to me.” — Suzie Jay
“Any books written for kids in a tone that they will understand and enjoy. They are stories that deal with issues kid’s today face.” — Monica Garry
“Good children’s books are not self-consciously ‘educational’ or preachy. Children don’t need to be talked down to or patronised, but they do need something which caters to their more feeling-based outlook, rather being too intellectual… a children’s book should be imaginative and engaging, but not horrible or overly scary.” — Odelia Floris
Lots of adults enjoy children’s books, especially middle grade and YA. What’s the special appeal?
“Children’s and YA adult books are often shorter, more condensed stories with a lot packed in. You won’t be wading through five hundred pages to find out what happens. I also think that many adults enjoy the innocence of children’s books, as they are not so much about adult relationships. Children’s books are often inventive, imaginative and humorous too. Adults enjoy play and fantasy, and reading a children’s book can be a way of getting back to the more carefree days of childhood for a little while.” — Odelia Floris
“Personally, I find YA to move at a faster pace. There is less fussing about with excessive descriptions and characters second guessing themselves like adults would. I also think it’s like listening to a favorite song from a great time in your life. You remember the feelings you felt and the life you led when that song was popular. Books about the teen years are the same; they are nostalgic and remind us of times gone bye. Oh and some of the books are just kick ass amazing stories.” — Suzie Jay
“I think a lot of adults enjoy these books because we’re still children at heart. Some of us may not want to acknowledge it, but we still believe in magic and fairytale endings.” — Monica Garry
Often, children’s books contain illustrations. Do you include pictures in your books? If so, how do you decide on an artist?
“Not at the moment, though I’d like to in the future. I am currently looking for an illustrator.” (Fionna: Hey, indie illustrators! You should get in touch!) — Monica Garry
“My book is a chapter book, not a picture book. But it does contain one illustration plate, and a line drawing above each chapter heading. I am an artist myself. In fact, I was an artist before I was a writer. So I do the main illustrations myself. I did the cover artwork for The Little Demon Who Couldn’t, and the illustration plate as well.” — Odelia Floris
“I do have illustrations but it’s more like Roald Dahl’s books. They are basically novels with little pictures inserted throughout. So it’s not a picture on each page because I talk too much and there is way too much writing. Sometimes I do the illustrations myself. I’m not an artist but I can get by. Other times I see something I like on the net and hunt the illustrator down and beg them to help make my book awesome.” — Suzie Jay
How do you, as an adult author, come up with characters and situations that children can identify with?
“I always keep a sense of wonder and magic in anything I write for children, first and foremost. With characters, it is the ‘little person’ which children identify with. This character can be a child, or someone with a more naïve/inexperienced outlook than the other characters in the story, such as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Bilbo just wants to have a safe, simple life, while Gandalf and the dwarves are more adventurous by nature, and have greater knowledge and aims. The other character who children can identify with is the idealised, archetypal hero or heroine. This is someone children can look to and say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like him/her’. This is usually the prince or princess, or the brave hero who slays the dragon. The first kind of character maps out the journey every child is on in their own way, that of ignorance to knowledge, naiveté to experience. Just like Bilbo, or Rat and Mole in The Wind in the Willows do, every child must learn about the world beyond their home, and venture bravely out into life. And the second kind of character gives the child an ideal to emulate, acting as a guiding light ahead on their journey to adulthood.” — Odelia Floris
“I spy on my nieces and nephews. LOL. They are my inspiration and I like to include them in my books.” — Monica Garry
“I have more difficulty coming up with adult characters. You see, I used to be a school teacher so I worked with children for years, then there’s the fact I have 6 kids of my own. They are all different ages so I have a good span of experts to critique my work. I also remember my childhood vividly, like it was yesterday and I remember what I loved and what I didn’t… that memory, coupled with keeping my finger on the pulse with today’s trends and advancements makes writing characters for children one of my favorite things.” — Suzie Jay
What is your favorite children’s book and why?
“I adore the Wishing Chair series and the Folk of the Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton. I know they are a bit dated these days but they hold such amazing memories for me. I had a very protective mother when I was growing up, so to read about kids going off on adventures with no adults and getting into danger and overcoming it, was just so magical to me. I would sit in my little rocking chair and squeeze my eyes shut and wish it would grow wings and take me off to new lands. I want to write book like that; books that get kids believing and escaping the everyday.” — Suzie Jay
“My all time favorite is Beauty and the Beast. I love the romance and magic. I can’t wait to watch the remake that comes out soon.” — Monica Garry
“It has to be The Little Troll by Thomas Berger. This picture book was one of my favourites growing up, and it is still one of my all-time favourite books now. It is beautifully illustrated, telling the story of an ugly little troll who lives in the forest. I love that the story has a moral and a meaning, yet is not in any way preachy or over-sentimental. For me, becoming a better person is THE story, one which I think any good novel has at its core… The Little Troll is beautiful, profoundly moving, and truly magical.” — Odelia Floris
Check out these excellent ASPA authors’ books for kids! Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page. — Fionna Guillaume
An evil grudge. A dark curse. A tough princess who won’t go down without a fight.
“Dedicated to all the brave princes and princesses battling Cancer and Leukaemia. Never stop looking for your miracle.” Suzie Jay.
After this Halloween adventure, Dontae and his friends will never be the same.
Set in the mid-nineteenth century , The Little Demon Who Couldn’t is an exciting, magical and witty urban fantasy tale about a young devil who just isn’t very good at being evil… For ages 6-12