Sunday, March 08, 2009

Looking For Adult Books For Younger Readers

I am frequently attracted to adult books with child and YA protagonists. I'm very interested in how books with those kinds of leads end up being published as adult lit versus kidlit or vice versa. I'm also interested in whether or not those adult books could be of interest to nonadult readers. I think it was at Read Roger that I once read that one of a YA librarian's responsibilities is to lead adolescent readers to adult books. I'm certainly not a YA librarian, but I do like the idea of books that will lead kids into the grown-up world. (Because the adult world is such a terrific place and everyone should want to be here, right?)

I recently read two fine adult books with child-ish characters. Oddly enough, they're both books that jump off from older works. (This isn't all that odd, because I like those kinds of books. It's a little bit odd that I happened to read one right after the other.)


In the first, The Dead Father's Club by Matt Haig, poor eleven-year-old Philip Noble is haunted by his dead dad who insists that Uncle Alan did him in because he wanted the pub and Philip's mum. In order to save dad from an afterlife with something called the Terrors, Philip needs to avenge his death by killing Uncle Alan. Very good book that I would have enjoyed much, much more if I knew more about Hamlet, upon which it is based. I'm not even sure I've ever read the original source material, though I did realize that Philip's fish being named Gertrude is a joke.

The second book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King, was recommended just a couple of weeks ago by Jen Robinson. The beekeeper of the title is Sherlock Holmes. His apprentice is Mary Russell, a young woman in her late teens with whom he develops an intense father/child relationship.

Both these books could be of interest to YAs, though maybe to older, more sophisticated readers--and not because young Philip is always going on about mum getting sex from Uncle Alan and the questions that are raised in The Beekeeper's Apprentice about Holmes' willingness to disguise himself in women's evening gowns and the content of the photograph of him at a Turkish bath. Voice, theme, point of view, and some other stuff I'm interested in discussing with a captive audience as well as some subjects I may not have thought of yet, should all be considered when determining which audience is most likely to go for a particular title.

So over the next few days, Gail is going to make like Mary Russell at Oxford and do a little study of these two books and how they could engage teen readers. You have been warned.

2 comments:

Lisa Nowak said...

The Alex awards sound like what you're looking for.

http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/alexawards/alexawards.cfm

gail said...

The Alex Awards are given to 10 adult books with appeal to 12 to 18 year olds. Neither The Beekeeper's Apprentice or The Dead Father's Club were included in the lists. The Beekeeper's Apprentice was published before the Alex Awards began. It is on YALSA's list of Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners.