Unfortunately, Sara O’Leary’s intelligent article from the September 13th Vancouver Sun on authors crossing into the field of children’s literature (“Writers who yield to the inner child”) is not available online; however, Wolves in the Walls plays a large part of her discussion:
…it remains a fact that a lot of literature written for children is dull, dull, dull.
But with all the adults now reading the Harry Potter books, why not regress just a little further and reach for a nice picture book? Or, as Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean term their latest creation for children, The Wolves in the Walls, “a graphic novel for children.” That would seem to be an entirely different sort of creature from a children’s picture book. For one thing the phrasing privileges the text and the images equally; but it also seems to hint at the fact that there is something satisfying here for adults.
The Wolves in the Walls does fantastically innovative things with illustration — mixing painting and digitally-altered photography with drawing. And the story is a satisfying one to read because not only does good triumph over evil, but cleverness triumphs over wickedness, bravery over commonsense and loyalty over pragmatism. How often can you get that sense of catharsis and satisfaction from a “grown-up” book?
Gaiman has gained huge popularity for his recent books for adults, American Gods and Neverwhere, but is equally popular with young readers, as the stunning sales of his young-adult novel Coraline proved last year. In an online interview with newsarama.com, Gaiman explains the significant differences for him between writing for children and writing for adults:
“One of the things I love about children’s fiction is you can simply make things happen…. Writing adult fiction is harder — you’re dealing with suspension of disbelief. And what will leave one person really happy, and feeling that everything you’ve written is utterly true will leave the person next to her shaking his head at the pitiful way you’ve tried to make him believe in junkie leprechauns.”
Maybe the reason these writers are drawn to writing for children is based on their willingness to suspend disbelief, to go along with the joke, to allow themselves to wonder. If wolves really did come out of the walls, what would you do? Good writing is good writing is good writing. And you don’t have to be a child to recognize it.
And oddly, the phrase “junkie leprechauns” only comes up once in a Google search, so I cannot seem to locate the Newsarama article. However, they did report that 1602 was the top comic for August according to Diamond; Newsarama estimates it shipped 168,134 copies.