Lit Kid

My interest in children’s books isn’t really big news. It gets mentions all over the shop – here, here and here, to cite just a few.

Occasionally I wax lyrical about just how much I love children’s books. The library visits. The second-hand shop bargains.

From time to time, writing about children’s books seems to strike a chord with others. It’s easier with the popular books, certainly, but it can happen on others too.

It’s not just the book itself, but what we learn about ourselves, what’s permissible as we move on from childhood ourselves.

In the best of ways, children’s literature is much bigger than the category suggests. It’s exploration of the world around us – and how different that world can be, depending on where we grow up.

It’s exploring what interests us – and what scares us. It’s philosophy, and it’s pragmatics for daily life.

It’s discovering humour, through pictures as well as through words. It’s understanding that there can be others out there like us – and others very different – and somehow, we find ways to understand each other.

It’s about being prepared to go against convention – sometimes to push against societal taboos.

It is often about questioning power. In children’s stories, children (those who often lack power in their own lives) find their positions reversed.

They take on the threat – and win. They help parents see that there are other perspectives to consider.

Children’s books may be moral – and many are, whether with a capital or a small ‘m’ – but they can also be deeply subversive of the status quo.

They are to lull us to sleep at night – and they are there to make us wake up.

In the last few weeks of thinking about this, I’ve looked at a fair few blogs on children’s books.

Enough to see that there are many others who share my passion; not so many that I feel compelled to follow a particular mode of writing about children’s books.

Back in the days of secondary school, I got to study lots of literature (my choice). The way of critiquing it was known as literary criticism, or lit crit.

At a critical point, I left the literature route behind. I picked a language module in my English studies; I discovered the wonderful world of linguistics.

So I have some ideas about what makes books work – but I hope these are not so entrenched that I can’t bring my own perspectives to bear on those questions now.

I want to think about how children’s books work: thoughts and techniques together. Because, so far, it seems to be a path towards identifying what I want to write for myself.

I could of course go off and pick up a book that does it for me. But I quite like the hard route too.

I want to learn through the experience of thinking about children’s books – and I want to share some of my finds too, the ones I keep going back to.

So this is where I’m going over the coming year. Welcome to Lit Kid – my take on children’s books.