by Kathleen Ernst
Getting mail from kids is surely one of the great perks of writing for young readers. I recently got a lovely stack of letters from third graders. Their teacher had read one of my children’s mysteries, Danger at the Zoo, aloud in class. Afterwards they spent some time on my website, and learned more about me and my work.
Whenever I get a batch of letters like this, I can predict some of the questions they contain. But there are always surprises, too. I think this is the first time a child asked me my beverage of choice.
Other letters are revealing in other ways. This student thinks I shouldn’t be quite so wordy.
Several kids were interested in my Chloe Ellefson mysteries—my "murder books."
In that last one the child was at least asking if their parents might like them. Still, the interest and questions reveal a quirk to consider in promoting my work. Many kids are intrigued by the notion of murder. And if they enjoyed one of my kids’ mysteries, they get even more interested when they discover I’ve written books that include murder.
In general, I believe kids will self-select books that are appropriate for them, and that’s as it should be. Since these particular kids are in third grade, I explained that while their parents might enjoy the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, I was sure they’d have more fun exploring my other books written for young readers.
End of the story? Not quite.
A short story I wrote was recently published online in Women Writing the West’s Laura Journal. It’s darker than I usually write, and although I don’t go into details, the theme is mature (sexual abuse in the 19th century). It earned Honorable Mention status in a competition, and now that it’s published, I’d like to steer readers in that direction.
But I have young children regularly visiting my website, and following me on my own blog and on Facebook. Knowing that, I’m just not comfortable posting the link to that particular story in those places. (As far as I know, we don’t have too many eight-year-olds following Inkspot.)
On the flip side, having young fans has been a boost for the Chloe Ellefson mysteries. I’ve heard from a number of teens who read my children’s books when they were younger, and now have become avid Chloe fans. That is, of course, extremely cool.
So…what do you think about kids reading mysteries written for adults? Should kids be allowed to sample whatever they wish, or should certain books be labeled out-of-bounds?