Tag Archives: children’s publishing

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?

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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.

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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

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Happy World Book Day!

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What book are you reading today to celebrate?

The full list of £1 books for 2013 is:
Alfie’s Shop by Shirley Hughes 
Giraffes Can’t Dance: Colouring and Puzzle Fun by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees 
Horrid Henry’s Guide to Perfect Parents by Francesca Simon, illustrated by Tony Ross 
Tony Robinson’s Weird World of Wonders: Funny Inventions by Tony Robinson 
The Diamond Brothers in… Two of Diamonds by Anthony Horowitz 
Hang In There Bozo: The Ruby Redfort Emergency Survival Guide For Some Tricky Predicaments by Lauren Child 
Tom Gates: Best Book Day Ever! (So Far) by Liz Pichon 
The Chocolate Box Girls: Bittersweet by Cathy Cassidy

Work Experience with Walker Books

It was around the 6th March 2012, I had just received my first work experience placement in a publishing house, Walker Books, in the Marketing and Publicity department. I can only describe myself as bouncing off the walls! Walker Books produced many of my own childhood reads; I was extremely happy to be visiting their headquarters to see what goes on behind the scenes.

As a country girl, the prospect of travelling to London on my own was quite daunting, never mind that I would be entering a new work place…shock horror! How was I going to cope with the tube? Well, off I went and I am coping wonderfully.

After arriving an hour and a half early on my first day (nothing like being on time), I was given a tour of the building, introduced to a number people and shown the ropes. As an intern, I was given jobs such as mailing out post and fetching certain books from the stock rooms – which sounds thrilling but it contributes to your basic understanding of what goes on. I was also allocated research tasks such as looking at blogs from book reviews to beauty campaigns; this proved incredibly fascinating. However, the highlight has to be writing press releases for J. Smith by Fougasse, the life-size version of the one in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. It is an incredibly beautiful book and is due to be released at the beginning of May.

I also spent an afternoon in Foreign Rights which was overwhelming when I saw the numbers that they were dealing with! However, it was an extremely interesting experience. Those in Foreign Rights are able to attend the international book fairs such as Frankfurt and Bologna. There is so much still to learn about the UK market that getting my head around the foreign markets is quite a task!

Overall, it was a thoroughly good experience and I learnt a great deal. I owe a big thank you to Walker Books!