I am a firm believer in not “writing down” the audience, meaning I feel that middle-grade books should not be dumbed down simply because the audience is young. So if a book uses high vocabulary or bigger concepts, I’m all for it.
There are some books that have a bit of the opposite problem. They’ve been “written up.” If I had read these books a child, I might have enjoyed them, but there was something about the style that I was able to appreciate more as an adult.
I read the Series of Unfortunate Events as a child. I found it amusing and bizarre, as so many of us do. When Lemony Snicket released his new mystery series, All the Wrong Questions, I was excited to give it a try.
Recently, I picked up the first in the series, Who Could That Be at This Hour?
I don’t think I would’ve understood the humor and subtleties in the writing at a young age. I think I would’ve just been really confused. Even as an adult I was kind of bewildered.
This book follows a boy named Jack and the adventures he has in a land called Hokey Pokey, a place with no adults. The plot is pretty simple – Jack’s bike is stolen and he wants to get it back.
This book is metaphorical and nostalgic. It’s about kids growing up and leaving childhood behind. There are lots of made-up words that give the book a fun feel. It’s super creative.
But it’s a metaphor. About growing up. Which isn’t a topic that would’ve interested me as a kid.
This book followed a twelve-year-old girl named Mallie, who lives in a mining town and works as a servant for a nasty rich family. She is recruited with a group of boys (she tries to pass herself off as a boy at first, but that doesn’t last long) to perform dangerous tasks with the promise of making a fortune.
Over the Moon is the third book that I’ve read by Natalie Lloyd. All of her writing contains magic and whimsy, but this novel pushes things from whimsical to lyrical. The writing has a certain poetry. It’s beautiful. Almost to the point where the writing and the story seemed to be fighting for space.
If I would’ve read this book as a child, I would’ve enjoyed the adventure and the world-building, but the lovely wording, which was all I could notice now, would’ve gone right over my head.
I had the same thought when I finished all three of these books: Who is this book for? (I noted some reviews for Who Could That Be at This Hour? and Hokey Pokey on Goodreads that mentioned this same question.) Books for kids need to feel relatable to kids.