Tag Archives: beverly cleary

For ages # and up

I was looking through some stuff the other day and was reminded of a comment one of my reviews had received, suggesting that instead of just calling something a children’s book, I should name a specific age range. It occurs to me that I have absolutely no idea how to define such things. I believe I have two major factors working against me:

  1. No children in my life. I am not a parent; I don’t babysit; my nieces and nephews all live halfway across the country; and I was the youngest child so I never even had a younger sibling to care for. In short, I have exactly zero experience in choosing age-appropriate literature for children of any age.
  2. I’m not even sure if my own childhood reading was age-appropriate. First of all, I didn’t really enjoy reading. I hated everything we ever read for school. Aside from a few books by Beverly Cleary, Gordon Korman, and Daniel Pinkwater, I don’t recall much between picture books and adult science fiction and fantasy. By the time I was a preteen, I was reading mostly Piers Anthony and Robert Asprin. Is this age-appropriate? Hard to say, I guess, though I did grow up to be a (fairly) well-adjusted and (somewhat) normal adult. All the same, I’m sure I embarrassed my mother that time when I looked up from one of the Incarnations of Immortality books to ask her what a concubine was.

I am also at a loss to define “age-appropriate” in terms of subject material. I could probably rate books in terms of vocabulary, but who am I to say what topics are or are not suitable for a child of a certain age? Most banned/challenged books become that way because someone believes it is inappropriate for children of a certain age group. When do people magically become old enough to handle any variety of topics? I say if you’re in high school, you should be capable of handling adult themes. I read Night by Elie Wiesel as a freshman. It could be argued that a fourteen-year-old is not mature enough to handle such a subject, but considering the events occurred when Wiesel himself was fifteen, the objection seems trivial.

So, how do you determine the proper age range for a book?

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