On Twitter today Nick Cook quotes fantasy and science fiction author Ursula Le Guin on writing for children. I was minded to find the context for the comment, which was new to me,”Sure, it’s simple, writing for kids. Just as simple as bringing them up!” (Mind you, Rosemary Sutcliff resisted firmly use of “kids”; a kid, she used to say, is a young goat). Le Guin wrote in an essay published in 1979:
“It must be relaxing to write simple things for a change”
Sure, it’s simple, writing for kids. Just as simple as bringing them up.
All you do is take the sex out, and use short little words, and little dumb ideas, and don’t be scary, and be sure there’s a happy ending. Right? Nothing to it. Write down. Right on.
If you do all that, you might even write Jonathan Livingston Seagull and make twenty billion dollars and have every adult in America reading your book!
But you won’t have every kid in America reading your book. They will look at it, and they will see straight through it, with their clear, cold, beady little eyes, and they will put it down, and they will go away. Kids will devour vast amounts of garbage (and it is good for them) but they are not like adults: they have not yet learned to eat plastic.
The British seem not to believe categorisations of “juvenile,” “teen-age,” “young adult,” etc. so devoutly as we do.
Source: The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin, published first in 1979 by Putnam
A conversation between Le Guin and Rosemary Sutcliff on this theme would have been intriguing!