It’s a Children’s Book (Not Young Adult)!

I’ve been enormously irritated with the popular media use of the term young adult for books that are actually children’s books.  Wanting to document and draw attention to this I’ve started a tumblr, It’s a Children’s Book (Not Young Adult)!,  By all means follow it, but better yet, if you happen to see one of these irritating misuses, please let me know and I’ll add it in, giving you full credit of course!



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9 responses to “It’s a Children’s Book (Not Young Adult)!

  1. Not only do I get called a YA author all the dang time – in the newspaper, in blogs, on news sites, whatever – my more recent book was actually shelved in the teen section (by mistake, apparently) at B&N for the first two weeks after its release. It’s clearly for younger children, evidenced by the youthful cover and the fact that it says 8-14 right there on the back cover. I like YA books (or, many of them, anyway) but I don’t write them. And it bugs the spit out of me.


  2. (And also? I think the adults who do this are afraid of kid-cooties. Young Adult sounds more, well, adult. And I think people tend to confuse the distinctions and histories of the respective genres. The problem, I think, may originate in faulty postulates and misapplied logic, – i.e., “since I am reading this, and since I am an adult and not a child, but the book trends young, therefore this book must be Young Adult,” right? What bugs me is the fact that folks seem to be reluctant to acknowledge the tradition in children’s literature in grand, romantic storytelling – the types of stories that have no age discrimination, and everyone is welcome to participate. I mean, that’s what draws me to children’s literature, and my sense is that I’m not the only one.)


    • Kid-cooties, that is perfect! Someone here or on the HuffPo blog post I did on this suggested that adults who read children’s books feel it is somehow “undignified” and so call it YA. I guess it goes back to them creating more “adult” covers for the Harry Potter books in the UK so people wouldn’t get those cooties:)

      I tend to see two responses to this. One from librarians who get defensive about shelving issues and so I have to explain they are great and my issue is not with them or this.

      The other is with those adults who clearly do read children’s books and say things like “why do we need to categorize anyway — aren’t they all just books?” So those are the ones, as you note, who have no clue of the history or why there might be a reason to separate out books for different ages.

      I should try to get Adam, Jeannie, Rebecca, and Nate to recap some of what they said yesterday since it was great and really got to some excellent distinctions between YA and children’s from an author pov.


      • I have some affinity for the folks in favor of the un-balkanization of books (one of the things that I really like about kids’ books generally is their willingness to break genre distinctions and to build readers that don’t limit themselves to a certain section of the library; as an educator, I bristle against those who self-limit their reading habits) – HOWEVER, my kid actually made me change my tune. She’s 13, made of awesome, and a crazy voracious reader, devouring about a novel a day. We live at the library. She doesn’t care for a lot of what’s on the YA shelf, but she reads it religiously so as to have stuff in common with her peers; she just finished her Jane Austen kick, and now she’s onto the Brontes. But she still reads Children’s books too. This morning she was re-reading HOLES for like the nine millionth time, and she loves Franny Billingsly and Frances Hardinge and Gary Schmidt. Her opinion is that she picks a book based on the experience she wants to have at the get-go. She said this: “I like to know what kind of ride I’m on when I start out. When I read an adult book, I get a story about my future. When I read a YA book, I get a story about my life now (or how I wish my life now was). When I read a children’s book, I get a story about the whole world.”


    • Yes to “kid-cooties!” I admit I have fun when customers wander by accident into the kids’ section of our store and ask for, say, the poetry or the audiobooks. “Kids’ or adult?” I always ask.The response is almost always a stiff, “adult.”


  3. I remember seeing this Flavorwire post last year, 10 YA Books that Scarred Us for Life ( and was extremely confused by their selections. Where the Red Fern Grows? Bridge to Terabithia? The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Bah!

    Kelly– I love the kid-cooties theory! It’s a good explanation as to why kids books get labeled as YA. I suppose it sounds more acceptable by the way of popular culture and one doesn’t have to admit to reading (gasp) a children’s book. Something that peeves me the most is when someone feels the content of a middle grade novel would be considered over the heads of children, and is therefore re-categorized with books for an older audience. In my experience kids aren’t given enough credit for their comprehension. Adam Gidwitz is a great example of a children’s author who trusts his young audience.

    On the flipside, I work with several older adult librarians who have sworn off everything but children’s books simply because they already live in an adult world with adult issues… Why spend time reading about them? The worlds created in children’s books are simply much more entertaining to them. Thought that was an interesting perspective as well.


  4. Alex Marestaing

    YA does seem to be a popular moniker for books these days, even more so since the Twilight series, and I think publishers have been trying to ride that wave. As an author myself, I’ve been torn at times wondering what category my work should fall into. Should I simply base the category on the age of the protagonist? It’s a hard call to make, especially when an author feels that all ages would enjoy his/her work.


  5. It’s funny, but my favorite young adult book is actually an audio book I downloaded for free. It’s called TwirlyGirl stories and they’re actually quite sophisticated. Me and my daughters listen to it together. You can get it at if anyone is interested.


  6. The use of the word adult (albeit qualified by the idea of being ‘young’) to describe anyone aged between say 12 and 25 suggests continuity, but the older you get the more you change. If I was to meet my 15 year old self I doubt we’d have anything significant in common except that we both read books and neither of us is getting any younger.


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