CS Lewis once said that a children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children isn’t a good children’s story.
I don’t think he meant that children were undiscerning and couldn’t tell a good story from a bad one. I think what he meant was that the best, and indeed the most popular children’s stories, appeal to an inner child in adults as well as to children themselves.
The enduring popularity of the very greatest children’s stories stands testament to this truth. Everything from Swallows and Amazons to Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter and indeed Lewis’s own Narnia books reach out to the adult reader, inviting them to experience again the magic of childhood with all its wonder, fear and heroic dreams, as well as its inevitable, bittersweet transition into adolescence – often fearlessly touching on all manner of difficult themes along the way.
Adults often enjoy children’s stories on a completely different level to children. Mary Poppins is a case in point, both book and film. In fact, speaking of film, the Toy Story movies – particularly Toy Story 3 – provide yet another example of this principle.
When I have written children’s stories I have always tried to bear CS Lewis’s comment in mind. So far I have yet to encounter a single adult reader who has dismissed my novels as “kid’s books”. Quite the opposite in fact, with many reviewers insisting Uncle Flynn, Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge, George goes to Mars and George goes to Titan contain many adult themes (no, not that kind).
These reviewers are quite right. My novels mentioned above touch on overcoming fear, the dangers of mollycoddling, playing God, the insanity of the Cold War, greed, religious fundamentalism, sexual equality, bullying, post-traumatic stress, grief, death and the responsibilities of leadership, amongst other things.
In other words, they are what I hope CS Lewis would call good children’s stories.
My upcoming novel George goes to Neptune – the third and final instalment in the George Hughes series – is no exception. The story, particularly in the final chapters, goes to some quite dark places.
George goes to Neptune is released on the 25th of October. You can pre-order the Kindle download from Amazon by clicking here. Print copies will be available from the 31st of October.