Friday, September 11, 2009

Storytime for Grown-Ups?

*Disclaimer: I spent most of my early adult life teaching middle and high school kids, sixth grade and up. I don't have kids or younger siblings. I've got nieces and nephews and I encounter children on a daily basis at the library, but all in all, my young kid experience is quite limited.

My knowledge of children's books is also limited, but growing. After leading just a few library Storytimes, you learn really fast which books kids love and which ones bore them into a glazed-over stupor. Sometimes what might work with a large group might not work for one or two kids at home and vice versa. But I have learned that the stories have to resonate with the kids. A book's content has to interest the child. Stories can be about dinosaurs, trucks, dogs, cats, monsters or a hundred other things - as long as the subject interests the kid. The artwork has to be appealing and presented in a way that kids can understand the combination of both words and pictures.

In short, it's all about the kid.

Forever Young by Bob Dylan and illustrated by Paul Rogers and Uncle Andy's Cats by James Warhola (Warhol's nephew) certainly don't seem to be all about the kid, but rather the adult.

Uncle Andy's Cats, a story about the iconic artist Andy Warhol and a houseful of cats actually has something going for it. For kids who like cats, it's probably a good read. Maybe the book would actually interest kids who show even an early interest in art, which would be great. Maybe they'll want to know more about Warhol. But I wonder if kids will just scratch their heads over all the Campbell's Soup cans. I can't help wondering if parents will pick up the book to revisit some nostalgic moment from their past.

If you know me at all, you know I'm a huge Dylan fan, but I can't see anything in Forever Young that would engage young children in the least, except maybe the guitars. The book features a multitude of references to Dylan songs, lyrics and Dylanology that many adults won't even recognize. Kids aren't interested in any of this. Just tell them a good story.

Both Rogers and Warhola are well-respected names in the children's book industry. I am in no way disputing their talents. I suppose what I am questioning is the logic of the publishers. Are they trying to market these books to adults trying to relive the 60s and 70s? After all, children don't normally buy children's books. Adults do and when they do, they look for (or should look for) books that are going to engage the kids, books they'll want to read (or have read to them) over and over. I don't think these two fit that description. But again, see the disclaimer.*

1 comment:

Sarah Roberts said...

How cool, I want to check these out!