The Children’s Door

“One may enter the literary parlor via just about any door, be it the prison door, the madhouse door, or the brothel door. There is but one door one may not enter it through, which is the nursery door. The critics will never forgive you such. The great Rudyard Kipling is one to have suffered this. I keep wondering to myself what this peculiar contempt towards anything related to childhood is all about.” Michael Ende

Have you ever gotten that look while you’re reading a children’s book? That slight smirk, almost a sneer, that says, “Haven’t you graduated to grown-up books yet?” I’ve gotten it enough that it’s become more entertaining than annoying, but there are still days that I have to roll my eyes.

To me, “children’s” books—and I’m including here YA, MG, and early chapter books—are where the magic happens. Those are the books that showed me that words are more than just letters. They’re ideas, adventures, history, feelings, anything a person wants them to be. I remember solving mysteries with the Boxcar Children, understanding and appreciating different cultures in Redwall Abbey and Mossflower Woods, and pondering whether the Giver should be the only one to bear the weight of history. I remember reading “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry and starting for the first time to grasp the horrors of the Holocaust.

Those are the books that shaped me and continue to shape me. Those books represent hope, the power to become whomever you want to be, to overcome whatever weights the world may place on your shoulders.

And that is why I write for younger readers—in the hopes that I can help them believe that they can be something great, something beyond the ordinary, as so many authors have done for me.

Have you ever gotten that “Look” when telling people what books you enjoy or what genre you write? Why do you write what you do?