24 March 2011

Stop the madness!

I don't read many "grown-up" books, partially through choice and partially through career necessity. But when I do pick up a book for an audience older than 12, I have been lucky in reading some real winners. One such book was The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, which is definitely one of my favorite books of the last five years--for any age. Today I saw in a publisher's catalog that a kids adaptation of the novel is coming out in May. Publisher's catalog--meet the bottom of my shoe as I stomp upon you in frustration.

I am already on record griping about children's books for older readers that are adapted for kids that are still too young to read them. And I'm not particularly keen about the Great Illustrated Classics series, either, although I understand that they have worth for adult ESL readers, for example. But this trend of taking best-selling books written for adults and manhandling them somehow so that kids can read them has GOT TO STOP! To me it's no different then dressing kids like mini-adults. Three Cups of Tea was not only converted into a middle-grade book, but a picture book as well. What's wrong with leaving it as a book for adults that kids can read when they are ready to?

With the exception of Dewey, which actually benefited from the conversion for younger audiences (the publishers removed references to all the problems in author Myron's personal life and focused on the cat, which surely is all anyone was interested in anyway,) I can't think of a single title where this trend seems motivated by anything other than filthy lucre. The Art of Racing in the Rain seems particularly ill suited for the jump to middle grade readers for a number of reasons. First: it's sad. Second: the plot hinges on a wrongful sexual harassment suit against the protagonist. Third: the subtitle of the children's version is "my life as a dog," yet the whole point of the book is Enzo--the dog's--quest for humanity. Who thought this was necessary or a good idea? This was such a rewarding book to read as it was originally written, and I can't imagine that anyone who truly loved it would want to give their child a bastardized version so that they can get a "feel" for it. An unsuspecting reader who picks up the kiddie version will think it's just a sweet story about a dog and his family, and that does such a disservice to the original. Enzo was never striving for this.


Roberta said...

Isn't it interesting that many of the books you mention are about animals? Perhaps the publishers think that having an animal in the book gives it kid appeal, regardless of the actual plot?

Kara Schaff Dean said...

I think cute animals definitely equal quick bucks. But after I posted this I thought of some more titles-- mainly non-fiction. Both "In The Heart of the Sea" by Nathanial Philbrick and "Flags of our Fathers" by James Bradley have been adjusted for younger audiences. Great books to be sure, and might even be useful for reports or pleasure reading, but with so much intelligent non-fiction being written for children I have to question the need for conversion.

Add This


Blog Widget by LinkWithin