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Monday, 18 March 2013
Crossing the Divide ... or, Writing for young people and adults
The release of J K Rowling's The Casual Vacancy marks a dramatic change from young people's fantasy to adult fiction and it started me thinking about just how many authors have managed to cross the divide between young people's and adult books, and vice versa.
Most of us would know that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. A A Milne, famous for Winnie-the-Pooh also wrote detective novels and short stories for adults as well as war poetry. And Ian Fleming, who of course immortalised James Bond on paper, also wrote the children's classic, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Adult authors who write/wrote for young people include Salman Rushdie (Haroun and the Sea of Stories), Oscar Wilde (The Happy Prince and Other Tales), T S Eliot (Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats), Margaret Atwood (Up in a Tree) and James Patterson (the Maximum Ride series).
And young people's authors who write/wrote for adults include Anthony Horowitz (the thriller William S, a string of screen plays for television and a series of graphic novel horror stories called Edge), Roald Dahl (My Uncle Oswald in addition to short stories, one of the more successful being The Man from the South), Dr. Seuss (The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History's Barest Family), R L Stine (the horror novel Red Rain) and C S Lewis (The Discarded Image, and a revision of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress called The Pilgrim's Regress).
David Galef, a writer and English Professor in the US, researched this topic. And in Crossing Over: Authors Who Write Both Children's and Adults' Fiction, which he wrote for the Children's Literature Association Quarterly, he placed such authors into three main categories.
1. Writers of adult fiction who 'take up children's literature in mid-career’. Galef says that some even manage the transition with grace, Roald Dahl for example;
2. Those who start out writing for children and then only later write for adults. He says, 'those who achieve sufficient fame in children's literature ... will attract adult readers for anything they have written'. Maurice Sendak is an example; and
3. Those authors 'who can balance an array of diverse projects and have done so since the start of their careers.' Louisa May Alcott and C S Lewis.
I guess this tells us that some authors can/could be flexible in their thinking, their imagination and their writing. But the real question is - did they cross the divide successfully?