I can’t find a link to article but I found this editorial from Hornbook fascinating. I regularly hear people say that they don’t want kids to read “sad” books or “hard” books. I love this take on trouble and why we need it in books…
From the Editor of Hornbook
“You think your kids are trouble? Have a look at the September/October Horn Book Magazine, a special issue devoted to the rascals who write, publish, and populate books for children and young adults.
Books — and children — need trouble. It’s how they keep us interested. I recently spoke at a writer’s conference at which one fledgling author said she wanted to write children’s books because they were “nice.” Hell to the no: while it is certainly true that “nice” books get published regularly, it’s no wonder that they tend to be referred to, brutally but honestly, as “grandma traps.” Such books are designed to look harmless and pretty to nostalgic grown-ups’ eyes, but as far as a kid is concerned, they are unlikely to evoke any response beyond a dutiful thank-you-grandma-for-the-nice-book note written under the threat of withheld allowance. In twenty-five years of trying to figure out the key to finding good books for young people, the one precept that has guided me best is that kids read for the same reasons adults do, and high on the list of adult reading pleasures is the allure of vicarious trouble. Whether it’s a detective on the trail of a serial killer, a mountain climber dangling from a precipice, or simply a family who has it worse off than your own, we like to read accounts of things not going well, from disappointments to disasters. In an odd way, it’s because we want to help — that crusading lawyer needs us to turn the pages if she’s going to win her case. Kids are the same way: Max has to growl at his mother, Ramona needs to get into trouble at school, Brian needs to land in the woods with only a hatchet. Not only does conflict provoke plot, it asks us to choose a side — and makes a story matter.”