At the core, the stories that resonate often defy age limits because they contain universal truths. Kids must be able to relate to our stories and it is our job to listen to what they want or need as writers. If you write in a way that's going to try and please adults, you will probably miss the mark completely. You risk creating a story that appears didactic or old-fashioned. And what child do you know that likes to be told what to do or how to think?
Now, Martina and I have been having a conversation lately about how this same concept applies to a YA versus an adult book. We both spend a lot of our reading time in the world of YA, but we agree that Stephanie Meyer's The Host was much more enjoyable for us than the Twilight series. Little did we know until Martina did a little digging that The Host is considered an adult novel, and of course, Twilight is YA. As YA lovers, we were a little surprised at this discovery.
The point is, call it what you want to call it, but categorizing books or speculating why someone may purchase a book shouldn't drive your story. A fabulous book will be picked up for being just that. Labels certainly help a purchaser to locate a book, but I think we can safely say readers know there is a gray area that defies categorization. Besides, word of mouth is the most powerful force behind the proliferation of a really good read.
Be informed and educate yourself on what's out there before you write or illustrate. But, don't forget to tell a good story. Above all, write for children (hence, children's publishing). I think if you stay balanced, you won't go wrong.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Post to comments!