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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Saccharine or interesting? Thinking about children's books

June 21, 2013

I heard an entertaining interview with Daniel Handler (who writes as Lemony Snicket of the Series of Unfortunate Events) this week on NPR. Snicket was talking about his newest book, The Dark.

When asked why so many children's picture books are so "vanilla," (and his are NOT), Handler responded that he believes new parents are nervous, and seek out comforting — and saccharine — children's literature rather than literature that is "more interesting" and includes something terrible. In Snicket's new book, The Dark, he writes about Laszlo and his fear of the dark, and beautifully describes the dark as hiding "in the closet, sometimes it sat behind the shower curtain, but mostly it spent its time in the basement, all day long."

As with all Snicket's books, this one is beautifully written and utterly captivating. Certainly a fear of the dark is one many young children are familiar with! As always, it was really fun to listen to an author describe his craft and his writing process. Toward the end of the interview, Snicket describes the challenges of writing for children. He acknowledges that, as with most writing, words end up needing to be cut. Snicket likens that process to being on a life raft and having to "throw some words overboard."

Looking back, I think we were pretty saccharine around here. How about you?

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"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx