I saw a unique and very telling review of a book the other day. It wasn’t a review of my book, but it was of a children’s book. The reviewer was evidently the parent of a young child and she said something along these lines:
She thought the book she’d read was clever and she really enjoyed it. But her six-year-old didn’t. And considering it was a picture book and her child was the intended audience, she rated the book accordingly; by giving it a one-star rating.
Think about it. She really enjoyed the book. She thought it was clever. She may even have given it a four or five-star rating, like so many adults before her had already done. But she didn’t. Instead, she chose to read and rate the book via the POV of the intended audience.
And all I want to say to that is this: Thank you, mom of the one-star rating. You’ve given the opinion of the intended audience precedence. You’ve muted your own inclinations by turning up the volume on the voice that should be heard. And by doing so, you’ve shown that accurately determining the merit of children’s books requires a lot more insight, wisdom, observation, and astuteness than some people may think. It requires us adults – especially writers of children’s lit – to reach beyond our familiar, if not pretentious, ways of thinking; to dig deeper than our own understanding; to step out of ourselves and view the world around us through the eyes of a younger generation, a generation that doesn’t see the same way we see. It has nothing to do with dumbing-down (*cough* Martin Amis *cough*) but has everything to do with creativity, exercising our intellect, increasing our worldview, making the most of and appreciating fully these wonderful things called words, and mastering the craft. All for the pleasure of an audience other than ourselves. There’s nothing easy or simple about that.
No one loves a one-star rating. But that one really shines.