>I’m very interested in a comment Nina Lindsay made on the “oh, grow up” thread. Nina said, in part:
To take this in another direction…I’m someone who reads both adult and children’s literature recreationally, but I do find often that my recreational response to children’s literature gets in the way of my professional response. On a daily basis I have to actively separate my appreciation of a children’s book from my critical brain. At the same time I find that my public library colleagues who don’t read children’s literature recreationally also tend not to choose to review it professionally…just because they don’t really like to read it. This then puts a whole new layer on how I read reviews of children’s literature; if I suspect that most reviewers are actually “fans,” I have to suspect their evaluation of the audience for the book, and look actively for evidence in the review that they considered a REAL child audience. The evidence isn’t always there. I’m probably guilty of neglecting it myself.
Nina is bringing up another part of the question I hadn’t thought of: what’s the difference between an adult reading a children’s book recreationally and reading it professionally, and, crucially, what difference does that difference make? It’s tricky, because children’s librarians (and reviewers) are frequently reading recreationally and professionally at the same time–I’m reading Catherine Murdock’s Princess Ben right now, for example, because I’m editing our review of it, but I’m also enjoying it enormously. But my enjoyment isn’t really what Horn Book subscribers are invested in: they want to know if we think it is any good (we do) and if we think the young people they serve will like it. While I don’t suspect that Princess Ben is going to be one of them, books beloved by librarians, reviewers and prize committees but disdained by kids are enough of a phenomenon to have earned their own name: shelf-sitters. Is this a danger of Loving Too Much? That while the reviewers are lovers of children’s books, they are still reading as adults, and their enthusiasms are grown-up ones. Nina, is this at all what you were getting at?
I’d also like someday to see an exploration of the difference between “fans” of children’s literature and “readers” of children’s literature but I’ll leave that for someone else’s purgatory.