Are some kids’ books really for grown-ups?

There are a lot of books out there labeled as “kids books,” but have you ever noticed that some of them are more like “kids books for grown-ups”?

A well known example is The Golden Compass. It’s got a fun-sounding title, a colorful cover, and it’s even about a couple of kids. But the kids don’t act like any kids that age I know, and the story telling style isn’t really aimed at kids — young adults, more like; but not the middle-graders who are offered this book.

Another, much older, example is Ender’s Game. Same deal. Passed off as a kids book because of the age of the main character, but it’s as depressing as sad-dog-eyes, and the subject matter seems more aimed at adults remembering how bogus childhood can sometimes be than for actual kids who want to be entertained.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really gotten into some of these types of books — as a young adult. I’m just not sure publishers or authors should pretend they target a middle-grade audience. Any thoughts? Should a book be categorized just by the age of the main character?



  • comment-avatar
    E.S. Ivy March 20, 2013 (6:20 pm)

    I agree! My daughter was recently assigned to read Walk Two Moons. To be brief, her last observation was “this isn’t really a kids’ book.” Since she’s a kid I would call her an expert. 🙂

    I think that is true of too many award winners; adults give the awards to books they love as adults – who have a kid protagonist who struggles with adult problems. Yes, some kids struggle with adults problems, and they need books. But some kids are just normal and I don’t see the point of forcing them to dwell on disturbing things that even adults might have trouble processing.

    I had no idea Ender’s Game was labelled as a kid’s book. I read it as an adult and I would agree it’s an adult book. Hmm… maybe some people just classify it as a kid’s book. Amazon doesn’t seem to have it in the children’s section but I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of school librarians buy it. My local library has it classified as adult but it says suitable for ages 12 and up. There’s a new graphic novel but that is also shelved as adult.

  • comment-avatar
    VKF March 20, 2013 (8:43 pm)

    I know of at least several libraries that have Ender’s Game in the youth sections, and I’ve heard teachers recommending it to middle-graders. I wouldn’t recommend that one to most youth under 14. I’m glad I’m not the only one who raises an eyebrow at some of these “kids” titles!