Writing Down to Young Readers

I’ve just finished reading the first two books of the Spirit Animals series, by an assortment of different authors recruited by Scholastic Books, and started reading the first two books of the Wings of Fire series, by Tui Sutherland.

That “Clunk!” you heard in the  background was the Literary Quality Meter hitting rock bottom.

These books are intended for young readers, ages 10 and up. Parents are reading them aloud to younger children. They are part of the cultural mish-mosh that gets pumped into children’s brains. Today I will pass over the toxic messages embedded therein, and consider only the abysmal writing quality.

Wings of Fire is all about dragons. All the characters are dragons, living on a continent inhabited by dragons.

But we have surely reached the bottom of the barrel when one dragon addresses other dragons as “You guys.”

In my recent reading, I have discovered that dumbed-down goofy dialogue is pretty much the rule for Young Readers fiction, these days. Also WRITING IN ALL CAPS to provide emphasis, as in one character yelling at another. The standard procedure is to make all the characters in these books talk like kids in a public middle school. Some of the dialogue reads like text messages. The overall effect is to create something reminiscent of those Saturday morning cartoon shows that were created for the sole purpose of selling cereals and action figures.

Is it really, truly too much to ask, that dragons talk like dragons? And even think like dragons? You could very easily replace all the dragons in Tui Sutherland’s books with 12-year-old kids on cell phones and never notice any difference. Shouldn’t dragons be, um, different from people?

I grew up on Walter R. Brooks’ Freddy the Pig series. I loved those books, and I still love them today. There was nothing in them that a 9-year-old kid couldn’t understand; but when you read them as an adult, you enjoy subtly humorous touches that passed right over your head as a child.

C.S. Lewis’ immortal Chronicles of Narnia, written expressly for children, I didn’t discover until I was over 50. They never fail to delight me, even as they have been delighting children since the 1950s.

What do Freddy and Narnia have in common?

The masterly use of plain, old-fashioned English to tell the cotton-pickin’ story! And that’s why both kids and grown-ups can love them.

Oh, for books in which “ya” is never written for “you”!

Are these publishers today trying on purpose to keep the kiddies down–to chain them to a primitive pop culture? It’s as if they treat children’s imaginations as bonsai trees, skilfully dwarfing them so that they never grow.

Yo, dumbo!

Dragons are not guys.

3 comments on “Writing Down to Young Readers

  1. Well, your argument is somewhat similar to my view on churches that offer
    jazz and rock music in order to “attract the young into the church”. Great Scott!. They do not need that! There is more than enough of that outside
    the church. What they need to see is that church is different, deeper, with a new message- not the same old drivel.

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