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  1. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    Children's Books...Now and Then

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MissPomegranate, Feb 14, 2011.

    Ok, this is actually two questions that have to do with children's books, but I figured I'd just put them in the same post.

    First of all, how does one go about getting something like a picture book published?
    Do publishers look for different things (as in, do they care more about pictures than the story? I've read some pretty terrible picture books while babysitting story-wise)
    And how does one submit the transcript if they have both illustrations and the prose part? Do you submit them as they would appear in the book (as in, the text on the picture) or separately?

    Second question! And this one is subjective!

    Do you feel as through children's books (both chapter and picture) have changed in the past few decades?
    I recently preformed the play "Peter Pan and Wendy" in my High School. Some of the actors and crew had complained the play was "too depressing" and that we should change parts of it. Why? Because they didn't feel it was "right" that the last line was "and thus it will go on, so long as children are carefree, and innocent, and heartless". As this was my line, they all suggested I drop the last part, and I was confused as to why, as I had read the book as a kid and didn't find it odd.
    A friend of mine commented that she would never want to read that book, and she wished all children would just read "actual book for kids" like the Captain Underpants series.

    So, my question is: in this day and age, would a children's book more like Peter Pan, who kills people for the fun of it, be rejected? I've had some ideas I'd love to write as children's books, but they all have the same kind of serious undertones as something like Peter Pan and I'm worried I'll get the same response as the play did.

    Your thoughts?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I think the notion of what's suitable for children has definitely changed, and there has been a pretty dramatic swing towards trashy, inane (and, I suppose, imaginative?) fiction for children. But when books now have to compete with cartoons and video games for attention, they need to do something. Since big, bright, (trashy, inane) cartoons have become popular, books have tended to follow suit. That's not to say kids aren't still reading things like Peter Pan, it's just that it's not normal, per se. Parents and schools do still try to instil a love of these kinds of classic novels, but you only have to look at the number of threads that pop up on this forum about how boring the classics are, how school reading lists are outdated, etc, to see how much resistance there is to going back to these classic texts. So if you're book can blend those classic themes with more contemporary contexts, then there's no reason it shouldn't work. But don't expect to be able to write a novel that's stylistically similar to Peter Pan. I doubt it would sell.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think its just different the realities of what children in 2011 face are different to what those in JM Barrie's day did. Death of a sibling or loved one is a rarer occurence etc Poverty at least in the UK whilst still exists doesn't involve scrabbling for food in the same way. Twelve and fourteen year olds aren't going out to work.

    Lian Hearne, Jacqueline Wilson even JK Rowling take on some really gritty issues. Alex Sanchez is gripping. Judy Blume is more my generation but still relevant etc

    For younger children there is the Gruffalo etc
     
  4. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    If you ask me, children's stories should try to be educational as well as entertaining, whether it be through out-and-out informative stuff, or more subtle metaphors. Sadly, not too many kid's books do such things anymore.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Unfortunately, many people seem to regard children as mindless drones who are made of glass and can't handle anything other than kittens and rainbows in their stories. Obviously I wouldn't include graphic descriptions of ripped-out guts or sex scenes in a book I was writing for a child audience, but children can also handle rougher themes than adults give them credit for.

    Some of the classics I read as a kid: "Bridge to Terabithia," where one of the best friends dies, and "Shiloh," where a kid saves a dog from animal abuse. They both deal with harsh themes and are still regarded as classics among the people I know, but I still feel like newer children's books have a much different feel where anything deemed "scary" or "mature" is banned. Kids LIKE to be scared (in an innocent, horror-stories-at-sleepovers type of way) for goodness sakes.

    And, as I always tell people who disagree -- if a child finds a book troubling, he or she is an intelligent being who is capable of putting the book down and finding something else to do.

    The dumbing down of kids seems to extend further than just what's deemed appropriate for them in fiction - it seems to be a pop culture thing, too. My boyfriend is working on his teaching certificate and has done some student-teaching, and he's definitely seen people in the education system who underestimate children's intelligence.

    I wouldn't put on a movie like "Saw" or "Hostel" with a young kid present, but I'd definitely encourage kids to see movies like Lord of the Rings - they have some "scary moments" sure, but they also deal with important themes like friendship, endurance, and stepping up to fight for what you believe in.

    It's been forever since I read or watched Peter Pan, and all I know is the really basic premise -- Wendy and her brother (what was his name?) end up in a place where there's only kids, led by Peter Pan, and none of the "Lost Boys" (?) are able to grow up, and they have to defeat Captain Hook, and there's Tinkerbell and the believing in fairies stuff...yeah that's basically it. But what in it would be considered depressing for kids??? Seriously, it is a children's novel!
     
  6. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lol, I can't remember anything bad about Peter Pan, besides maybe Hook getting eaten by a crocodile... My grandfather used to read it to me everytime I spent the night at my grandparent's house, that and Gulliver's Travels, Mark Twain books and Around the World in 80 Days.. and Donald Duck :p
    Anyway, he started reading those books for me when I was around 5, and I can't remember anything I couldn't deal with. Heck, my brother (the worst babysitter in the world) let me watch the Shining and other scary movies when I was only 6, and that didn't even affect at all. Actually, I loved horror movies... maybe I was/am weird.

    I think kids today are way overprotected. I just heard about that parents complained about The Animals of Farthing Woods, and wanted it off the TV... That was my favorite show when I was little! I cried when I missed an episode. Sure, a lot of animals die and I cried about it watching it, but that is no reason to take it off air...

    I wish there was someone who wrote more serious stories these days. I'm writing a story for my cousins now, but I'm actually being a bit of a chicken and covering up deaths and stuff... the villain just vanishes in thin air instead of being killed.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I watched movies like "Alien," etc as a kid and am not scarred from it.

    I can totally understand if a parent doesn't want their young child seeing something with a graphic sex scene, or evisceration, or rape...but it's flat-out ridiculous when they proclaim things like "this movie has a boogie monster in it, and therefore you cannot watch it because you will be traumatized." It's just like the parents who freak out if their kid's friend tells the kid on the playground how babies are made - they're going to find out eventually, so what's the big deal? Do these people want their kids living in bubbles their whole lives?

    People argue against kids learning stories like Huck Finn because of the N-word. But the thing is, Twain wasn't a rascist, and that's actually how racists talked/behaved back then. Stories like this show that bigorty, racism etc is BAD and the protags defy it!!! Instead of trying to ban Huck Finn in schools and prevent kids from reading it, adults should use it as an opportunity to talk about themes like justice, friendship etc.

    When I was around 8, my favorite movie was "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey." The one about the 2 dogs and a cat who are lost on vacation and travel through the wilderness across the country to make it home. It had some teasing potty humor jokes and all the animals dealt with life-threatening situations (cat surviving a waterfall, dog getting porcupine-bit, other dog falling through rotting boards and breaking a leg, running away from mountain lion) but the movie was completely innocent and had a G rating. I feel like if this movie were released now, instead of the early 1990s, it would have a PG-13 for "scary scenes of animals getting hurt" or some BS like that.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, something about my connection to the subject...

    i'm a mother of 7 and grandmom of 19 [at last count]... i bought books for my kids before they were born, and for every gifting occasion thereafter...

    i mentor many aspiring writers of stories/books for children, have been doing so for quite a few years now...

    i started and ran a free books program for the otherwise bookless people here for 5 years, focusing especially on making sure all the children had books of their own, from the very earliest ages...

    and i'm currently writing several series of picture and chapter books for a chicago publisher who specializes in books for children...

    like any other book... with a query to agents and/or query and submission directly to publishers... but unless you're a known illustrator, only the ms will be considered in most cases, since publishers assign their own choice of artist to do the illustrations...

    as noted above, actual pictures won't be part of the picture [pardon the pun], so the story must be good enough and original enough to have good marketing potential... but the text must lend itself well to being illustrated and written in a way that an artist can easily see what images will best depict it...

    it's not a 'transcript' [look up this word], but a 'manuscript' which is generally referred to as 'ms' [plural is 'mss']... if you're a recognized illustrator/artist and/or if a publisher is open to artwork being submitted, check each one's submission guidelines to see how they want it sent...

    when sending the text ms, it should be formatted the same as any other prose work, with the one exception being rhymed text, which would be structured accordingly...

    another is that especially with minimal text, you would arrange it in sections corresponding to each page... and can include suggestions for art work in brackets, if not specifically told not to in the publisher's guidelines...

    no, not significantly, overall...

    there have always been children's stories that are on the 'dark' side and i suppose there always will be some, but what you don't seem to know is that barrie wrote peter pan first as a character in a story for an adult magazine, not for children... and during that same period, beatrix potter was writing and illustrating her children's stories about another 'peter'... her peter rabbit tales were not 'dark' and full of killing for fun...

    if your stories for little ones [which is who picture books are aimed at] have 'serious undertones' that include violence, then i doubt you'll get far with them... you need to do your own research... go to a major book store and see what kinds of picture books they have on their shelves... browse amazon online and see which are the bestselling ones...

    i hope this answers your questions well enough... if you want help with your project and/or just a assessment of your work's quality and chances for success, drop me a line any time...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Although Peter Rabbit does have the death of his father in it and a good portion of it is about him trying to escape death- like the Gruffalo has the idea of eating the MC for lunch.
     
  10. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    I don't intend on writing some kind of horror book for kiddies, but I assumed having an MC kill somebody would get me a lot of parents saying "Excuse me, but are you trying to corrupt my darling child's mind?!". Which, of course, is not the case but I feel like the norm for kids books would be limiting to my ideas...

    I did know that it was originally for adults (my friend is obsessed with Peter Pan, and has told me just about everything she knows about it), but the story is seen now as a children's book, as many people consider it one. I realize not all kids books of that time were dark, but I've read some that were rather sinister and I was wondering if similar themes now would be taboo.

    Oops, I definitely meant to write "manuscript" (I've been working on college applications and have read the word "transcript" far too often these past few days!)

    Thank you for your insight! It really helped a lot!
     
  11. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    I think the old children books are better like Cinderella,snowwhite..etc
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Peter Pan made a lot more sense when infant mortality was high (maybe it still makes sense in places where infant mortality is still high). I think that shows one sense in which children's literature changes -- the concerns of children change with the context of in which they live.

    As for describing children as heartless, I think the point could certainly still be made, but it would have to be shown rather than told, and it would have to be told in such a way that the child wouldn't feel judged or condemned by it. "Heartless" is too pejorative, but it's another way of saying carefree (which Barrie said) and emotionally resilient, which children are more likely to be able to empathise with.
     
  13. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    ^ The original versions of those were quite gory, haha. Cinderella's stepsis cutting off her toes to fit in the shoe, for example.

    I personally don't like the fact that those stories all have passive princesses who can't act for themselves and have to sit around waiting for the prince to save them. That's just me, though. When I was little I was obsessed with Alice and Wonderland. I literally wore the VHS tape out because I watched it so much. I made everyone call me "Alice" for a few months when I was 4.
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that's true, but it's a vicious circle. When children were less insulated from death you could get away with some of the brutality and death in Grimms' fairy tales. Now they're more insulated from it, they're less able to handle it. Then publishers play safe and stay well away from the edge and kids get more insulated from the darker side of life. Some children's authors manage to get away with it -- Roald Dahl did, and Jacqueline Wilson does, but by and large publishers are likely to shy away from stuff that is not extremely safe.
     
  15. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love some modern kids stories - Winnie the Witch, Gruffalo, Pipkin of Pepper, Pinkie etc
     
  16. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh man, have you read the original Snow White? Not only does the queen think she is happily eating her step-daughters heart, but she is made by Snow White to dance in hot iron shoes until she dies as revenge...
     
  17. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    Your age made you make that opinion,in fact I agree with you, but when you were a child you know how good these stories were....:
     
  18. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    From my understanding the original stories such as Snow White and such were never intended for children. People would tell the stories at local taverns and such as sort of a form of entertainment. Well I think thats correct. Been awhile since I looked that sort of stuff up.
     
  19. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Oh yes, I admit it. I watched Sleeping Beaty nonstop. Malificent scared me to death when I was 5. I also really liked Jumanji and it scared me when I was super little. :rolleyes:
     
  20. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It important to keep in the perspective that trends in literature has always been changing, and so in children's books. We have had period during last hundred years where we had extremely socially realistic children's literature, the 70s really political children's books, etc etc, and you can see trends coming and going and cycling through the last 200 years or even more then that.
     
  21. Lmc71775
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    Lmc71775 Active Member

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    I think it depends on your audience, do you mean little tots? Middle Grade? Teens? (YA)

    It took years to figure out my audience, you just gotta test the waters first. Try submitting to magazines first, poems, prose, short stories, that sorta thing and see if it hits...just gradually improve your writing that way. Because in children's you have to watch your word usage and concept. When you can get away with learning messages in little kiddie bee books you really can't do it (give morals and didactic messages) to teens...they want to escape from that. They don't wanna novel that teaches you something...if that's the case they would read referrence type books and non-fiction.

    Anyways...that's my 2 cents, that's only worth about half that these days.
     
  22. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    Jumanji was really good, it was about discovering new things in the jungle.And every child love these kind of books,movies,tv shows..etc
     

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