What we are remembered for
It’s not uncommon for children’s authors to have a little chip on their shoulder. We’re often asked ‘but when are you going to write a book for adults?’ as if the work we’re sweating over isn’t of much importance and the only readers that count are over eighteen. I doubt that authors of adult fiction, especially those with a literary bent, are ever asked when they are going to write a book for children. I don’t find this question insulting any more. Just misguided. Those who ask it show little understanding of children’s literature.
Reading Gretchen Gerzina’s biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett is a good reminder of the enduring quality of children’s literature. In her lifetime, FBH was compared with Charlotte Bronte and Henry James as one of the great novelists of the late 19th Century. She was a prolific author of adult fiction and yet the three books she is remembered for are only a fraction of her spectacular output: The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess. Ironically, The Secret Garden, which was written when FBH was in her sixties, was not considered one of her stand-out novels and yet in the course of the last hundred years it has become a timeless classic.
Perhaps every author of adult fiction should be asked “But when are you going to write a book for children?”