Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kid Lit

I must be entering my second childhood even though I haven't even reached the half-century mark yet. I'm finding modern adult fiction, both movies and books, increasingly tedious and unenjoyable. At the same time, I'm enjoying children's books and movies more and more.

Adult books and movies seem so repetitive, dull, and onerous to me. Lots of sex and violence, lots of weird relationships and lifestyles, plenty of pedantic bloviating, but little if any true creativity that I can detect (perhaps I just miss it). I know that this is a gross over generalization, but I'm just so tired of slogging through books that bring me no enjoyment whatsoever. I might as well stick to non-fiction if it's not going to be for pure enjoyment.

On the other hand, books for kids are just great these days (or at least I think so). The latest thing I've read to my daughters is Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson and its sequel, Peter and the Shadow Thieves. These books were startlingly enjoyable, intense fantasy adventures interspersed with humor and plenty of suspense. Total page turners - I ended up reading for four hours straight on Sunday to my seven year old to finish Peter and the Starcatchers. We just couldn't put the book down, right to the last page. Dave Barry was a humorist/columnist before he decided to start writing children's books. I've no idea who Ridley Pearson is, but the pair of them did a great job on this series. I hope they write another one.

Peter and the Starcatchers has lots of rave reviews on Amazon. The only negative reviewer wrote: "Many of the characters are one-dimensional." I would say that they're not so much one dimensional as not too overly constrained. In other words, do the authors really need to give an in depth description of all the characters? Or, by reading about the characters' actions, can we use our imagination and immediately build our own personalized understanding of that character and how they fit into the story? I greatly prefer the latter, but obviously different readers have different tastes.

There are also numerous other books I've read to my children that I've loved. Harry Potter, of course (I'm really looking forward to Book 7 which will be out in less than two months). The Bartimaeus Trilogy (which I've mentioned before on this blog) is a great series. Magyk, and also Flyte by Angie Sage (she also has a third one just out called Physik which we haven't read yet) are also wonderful fantasy adventures. And many more, all of which have been pure enjoyment.

Movies for kids? Same thing.

Are these stories for kids great literature or cinema? No, of course, not. But they're effortless enjoyment, unlike what's written and produced for adults.

I don't know what I'm gonna do when my kids grow up. I guess I'll have to rent someone else's kids.


Susan's Husband said...

You need to read more SF / Fantasy. There's a lot of good stuff there that doesn't suffer from the problems you list. I presume that you are reading what passes for "literature" instead.

Bret said...

You may be right. I read Cryptonomicon (well, as did you) as part of the Read In Unison experiment. Isn't Neal Stephenson a well-known and respected SF author? I really didn't enjoy the book all that much. Parts of it were quite entertaining but an awful lot felt like a slog.

The slog parts: I didn't really find learning about Amy Shaftoe's hillbilly cousins even vaguely interesting. Randy's acquisition of his grandfather's trunk full of crypto documents was too long for my taste. Etc.

That being said, I'm willing to try something else. Can you recommend something? Is there an adult version of Harry Potter? Not so much that there would be wizards in it, but rather the amount of entertainment and creativity (and perhaps escapism) per word read is very high? (Note that I never watch TV so books are my only escapism).

Otherwise, I might as well stick to non-fiction. There are still a couple more Hayek books I haven't read yet, for example.

Susan's Husband said...

I like most of Neal Stephenson's work, but I couldn't get through Necronomicon. If you want good stuff by him, try "Snow Crash" which is excellent and "The Diamond Age" which is nearly as good. I also like Alistair Reynold's cylce that starts with "Revelation Space", which I rate highly, although the series dropped off in later books.

For fantasy, try the Isavalta cycle. Lois McMaster Bujold has put out a lot of good stuff too. I even liked the Symphony of the Ages, although it was just good, not excellent.

These all at least don't suffer from your complaints, as I despise that sort of tripe as well.

Ali said...

I tried the Diamond Age but it didn't grab me. I used to read a lot of Asimov in my teens but mostly stick to non-fiction and the occasional comic now.

For adult fantasy, you could try George Martin's A Song Of Fire And Ice series. Really well-written although it's pretty heavy on the sex and violence.

I reread Anne of Green Gables for the first time since I was eleven. It's a great, entertaining read and nicely broken up into bite-size chapters for bedtime reading.

Bret said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll be ordering a few of them shortly.