When Anne and I led a panel session on the Cybils at the 1st Annual Kidslitosphere Conference this weekend in Chicago, one theme in particular kept popping up during discussions: How do we decide if a book is child-friendly or not?
This is an important question for the ninety panelists and judges evaluating the hundreds of children's and YA books nominated this year. One of our main goals is to find quality books children will love. In other words, we're looking for well written, intelligent, and kid-friendly titles.
But how do we--a group of 88 adults and 2 teens--decide what is child friendly? What are our criteria? Will we know child-friendly when we see it?
Tell us what you think. How does an adult reader recognize a child-friendly book? What are your tell-tale signs of a fun and compelling read? Feel free to answer in the comments or on your own blog. We want to hear what you have to say.
My thoughts on Kelly's question.
I think kid-friendly books are books that are accessible to kids. They have to have a "hook" early on in the text. They've got to grab you in some way in the first few pages or the first chapter. While I think is true of most readers, I think it is especially true of kids, that they're not going to wade through chapters and chapters waiting for a book to get "better" and the story to get "unboring." They've got to want to read it from the get go. Whether this is done through humor or through action....there has got to be something in the pages that makes you want to keep going. I think Rick Riordan is a great example. The Lightning Thief? One of the best 'first pages' ever in my opinion. I think how an author establishes this connection with the reader can vary greatly. (Although I'm probably in the minority, I thought Octavian Nothing was quite possibly the world's most boring book trying to pass itself off as a young adult book. It was heavy; it was boring.) It was one I had to force myself to keep reading. Different kids/teens have different interests. So it's hard to always guess what the "generic" kid is going to think about a book. Some genres are naturally more kid-friendly than others. I think fantasy and adventure types...or any books with a touch of humor...are going to be more popular with kids.
I think the signs that a book is kid-friendly is if it's always off the shelves. If it something kids are recommending one another or talking about.