In Slate magazine, Katie Roiphe wonders whether good children’s book writers need to be childlike themselves.
“Is it possible that the most inspired children’s book writers never grow up? By that I don’t mean that they understand or have special affection or affinity toward children, but that they don’t understand adulthood, and I mean that in the best possible sense. It may be that they haven’t moved responsibly out of childhood the way most of us have, into busy, functional, settled adult life.” Read more.
Roiphe may be right about certain children’s writers, but I think she misses an important aspect of Margaret Wise Brown and Goodnight Moon. The book is based on research conducted at the Bank Street School in New York. Educators there observed that very young children like to hear about common things that they see around them and know about. And they like repetition. Watching toddlers react to Goodnight Moon is proof of the theory.
Some people known for their children’s books were indeed Peter Pans who never grew up. Hans Christian Anderson comes to mind. Roiphe mentions Lewis Carroll. But surely the most important thing, whether you are a childlike children’s author or an adultlike children’s author, is to see things the way children do. Ed Emberley, the subject of my March 24 post, is an example. Mister Rogers, too, for that matter. I became an instant convert to Mister Rogers when I saw how my 3-year-old responded to him.
Would love to hear your take on this.