I am a grown up. You probably already knew that, but I felt it was important to lay down early because it's a tricky thing, writing a blog about books for children but being a grown up. I come face to face with my limitations all the time. I am not silly enough. I don't find farts as hilarious as I might. I have read many, many stories in my life, which is another way of saying that my capacity for awe and surprise is…diminished.
And not only do I have lacks, but I also have unhelpful qualities that children don't have. For instance, the ability to talk about taxes and real estate as though they were interesting. Also, I understand the appeal of the classics, in and of itself.
Which brings us to today's topic: if kids don't immediately understand the intrinsic appeal of classics, then why do publishers make the classics look like classics? Case in point, Treasure Island:
Or maybe this:
And that one's a graphic novel! And then there's this:
And here's one that even has Jekyll and Hyde in it! But what does it look like? Like this:
When we were talking about funny fighting pirate books a few weeks ago, one of the problems, according to a close associate of The Diamond in the Window, was that Treasure Island has, and I quote "Those awful 'this book's a classic' covers, so all kids avoid it and no one realizes that it's unbelievably trashy fun." Yes, of course this could be a "teaching moment" in which you could instruct your small, impressionable child that "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover." But the truth is, I'm not all that keen on teaching moments these days. Especially with boys, who seem to be slipping away from reading faster and faster, when there is so much for them there. And when a book looks like this, it doesn't help.
So how should it look? I don't know! Comics? Manga? I don't know what would work. I do know about this crazy site, which offers amazing re-imagined cover art. Maybe the more visually gifted can go over there and re-imagine these?
So here's an assignment for the world: What would make kids, especially boys, look beyond the word "classic," which should maybe be banned, and see the trashy fun inside? I don't mean being horrible pandering slop, I just mean true to what Stevenson wrote. What do you think?