Thursday, August 25, 2011

SPJA - Yes, but what's your message?

When I was a kid, books were funny, adventurous, scary and entertaining. Kids got in trouble, dug themselves out of trouble, looked out for each other and basically enjoyed life. There were home-made catapults, risky behaviour, maybe a bit of aggro but it all worked out in the end.

I'm sure there are many new books which follow the same pattern, but boy are there lots of books with a Message. I don't mean subliminal, either - it's right there in the sales blurb so parents can collect the whole set: Social issues, hot topics, environmental messages ... let's wrap it in a plot and pitch it.

If kids' novels need a message to succeed then I'm in trouble, because the only message in Hal Junior is 'what's for lunch?'

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


JamesO said...

Kids aren't stupid. They'll run a mile from anything that comes with parental approval. Trying to wrap a story around a message is doing it the wrong way around - the message, if it's there, will come out of the story. If not, then there's always lunch.

Simon Haynes said...

My original post had an extra para in the middle explaining how we've raised our kids to be cynical, but I cut it. Most kids are cynics on their own!

I guess it does show how the market works though: 'Good' books sell to librarians and parents in big enough numbers to make them worth publishing, while 'Great' books (the ones kids want to read!) can sell by the million.

There's a market for both, and there's no room for endless 'great' books either. No shame in writing something which appeals to libraries and parents either.

Mary Paddock said...

I think that "parental approval thing" depends on the kid and the parents involved. My boys and I read a lot of the same books (Harry Potter for example) and I occasionally handed them books I'd liked as a kid. Some they liked, some they didn't. Overt messages tend to irritate kids, especially those dislike being talked down to.