Friday, February 20, 2009

Bookish thought du jour

I've been thinking, as I so frequently do, about books, having just today finished this one. It was recommended by one of my colleagues: we're thinking of doing a novel study based on a book that was recently made into a movie, and this was one I hadn't read. (The others, if you're interested, are "The Golden Compass", "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe", and "Inkheart".)

The book itself was one of those amazingly good ones... about a nine year old boy who finds himself on the opposite side of a fence from a boy who wears striped pajamas and shares a birthday with him. It was painful to read in parts because the main character, Bruno, is so incredibly naive - he brings food to his friend Shmuel but sometimes he gets hungry on the walk and eats most of it - so blind to the evil around him.

But this is what I wanted to write about today, the interview with the author in the back of the book. John Boyle says this:

"Is it a children's book? no. Is it an adults' book? No. It's a book. It's a story. And the more I grow as a writer, and the more I have conversations about writing with people..., the more I learn about writing and realize that these distinctions - who are these distinctions for? You know who these distinctions are for? They're for bookshops. "Do we put it in this... over on the left-hand side of the shelf, which we call crime? Or over on the right, which we call literary fiction?""

I think he's right. Sometimes, standing in line at the library, or on Amazon with my credit card clutched in my hand, I wonder what I'm doing with all these kids books. I am a sophisticated and intelligent person. I am very well educated. Why am I reading books for children?

I'm reading them because they're not books for children, they're just really really good books.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, books for kids are often better, more imaginitive, because of the nature of the market. My bookshelves are heaving with books by JK Rowling, Eoin Colfer, Garth Nix, Lemony Snicket etc.

Ant I absolutely loved The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. It is one of the best stories I've read in a long time. As a Germanist it's a subject I've seen approached from a variety of angles and this is one of the most sensitive and approachable.