Tag Archives: books

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

While interning at Hot Key Books last week, I was invited to write a blog post for their blog. I was inspired to write about adult themes in children’s literature after reviewing notes from the Parent Parlour, a parents conference held by Hot Key

Adult themes in children’s literature are nothing new. From allegorical tales such as those of Dr. Seuss, to historical novels such as GOODNIGHT MR.TOM by Michelle Magorian and WITCH CHILD by Ceila Rees (both of which I read and loved as a child) children’s stories that explore issues of war, politics, poverty, even genocide have always found their way on to bookstore shelves. But is this difficult genre beginning to over-saturate the children’s market, and how dark is too dark?


During my week interning with Hot Key Books, one of the tasks I undertook was typing up notes from a parents conference held by Hot Key. The message from the parents was unanimous; they were concerned about appropriateness of the reading material that was readily available to their children. These concerns have even bred the term ‘sick lit’, attributed to books whose portrayal of harrowing themes such as torture and emotional abuse might be considered explicit or gratuitous.

For myself personally, as someone whose favourite books as a young teen were about apartheid (the wonderful NOUGHTS AND CROSSES series by Malorie Blackman), and who as a late teen cut their hipster lit teeth on Chuck Palahniuk (seriously NOT suitable for kids!), I feel that relaying social commentary in children’s lit is both appropriate and effective –if, and it’s a big if – those themes are delicately handled.

A young narrator can often allow an author to approach difficult topics with innocence and a lack of bias that only exists in the young and un-jaded. Maybe there’s a sense of idealism there; if we thought like children, wouldn’t the solutions to our worldly problems seem so much simpler?

Books with adult themes have a huge cross-over audience; Hot Key’s own MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardener has both children and adult editions, and I vividly recall my Grandma lending me her copy of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon when I was 11 years old. I think that the ability to share the joy of books between families and across generations is something really quite special.


What I love most about children’s books that touch on adult themes is that they treat children like the intelligent and curious people that they are. Some of my favourite films are children’s movies that have the same kind of respect for their young audience; one being the beautiful adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, directed by Spike Jonze. In fact, I even gave a presentation on this film as part of my degree in Fine Art earlier this year.

In my experience working with kids in the past, I’ve often found that they have a huge capacity to cope with and understand difficult subjects, though of course, as with all things, there needs to be a line. There’s a big difference between tackling a difficult topic in an age-appropriate manner, and writing horror into children’s novels in an attempt to push the envelope.

What do you think about adult themes in kid’s books? Do you have any favourites from when you were younger, or any which you’ve read recently? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

 Originally posted 29th March 2013 at http://hotkeyblog.wordpress.com

Do you write in the margins?

Calling all bookworms! Do you scribble in the margins furiously while disagreeing with somebody’s opinion? Do you highlight lovely quotes to text to your beloved? Does the thought of writing in a crisp new book horrify you?

We’re two book-related academics (no seriously, we get to study books for a living – how awesome is that!?) who are super interested in marginalia and want to find out if/what people are writing in books. Would be lovely to hear what you do.

If you’re interested sharing your practices then please fill out this questionnaire. It should take about 15 minutes and will be really helpful to us. Please pass this on widely to any other book-lovers (or any weird book-haters) you know.

Link to our lovely questionnaire:


Thank you 🙂


Happy Valentine’s Day


Valentine’s Day for Book-lovers

Valentine’s day is looming and many of us still haven’t bought our significant others (or ourselves) gifts to celebrate this day of love. If your other half is a book-lover or if you are a book-lover and want to drop hints for the perfect present, or buy yourself something special, then look no further than our top five Valentine’s day gift guide for book-lovers.

1. A trip to Paris to stay at Le Pavillon des Lettres.


Not only will you spend time in the City of Love but you will stay in Paris’ first literary inspired hotel; where each of the 26 rooms reflect the works of the author after which it is named, with writers ranging from Hans Christian Anderson to Emile Zola.

2. Literary themed clothes/accessories.


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Just a small selection that we’d like to add to our wardrobe…

3. A chocolate book

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Books and chocolate: the perfect combination!

4.  Literary pieces for the home



original_owl.bookends_lifestyleTo create the perfect reading environment…

5. Books, lots of glorious books!

Stitched PanoramaYou can never go wrong with books! If you’re stuck for what book to buy then The Guardian asks What are the best books for Valentine’s Day?

If you have any more suggestions then we’d love to hear them.

The Joy of Books

This is definitely what happens in bookshops (and libraries) at night…

Are you stuck for a Christmas idea this year?

With nearly three weeks left to Christmas, we’ve been searching for the perfect books to buy as gifts for friends and family. The Guardian have outlined their best picks from 2012 for foodies, history-buffs, art-lovers, wild-life lovers, children or young at hearts, sci-fi geeks, crime fans, poetry lovers, fans of biographies/auto-biographies, and those who like to listen to their stories.

What’s on your Christmas book wishlist?

Who doesn’t like a bit of (bookshelf) porn…?

Find some inspiration in this awesome website: http://bookshelfporn.com/

I want to live here please:

From: http://bookshelfporn.com/post/25993006612

Or here…

From: http://bookshelfporn.com/post/19191253785/the-brain-is-a-14-280-cubic-foot-cinematic