I often get asked if I think kids still read adventure stories. Stories, that is, that take place on this world, in this universe, roughly within the last hundred years or so, and don’t involve werewolves, vampires, or swordplay.
My immediate response is either a slightly sarcastic (I know, those of you who know me personally are stunned that I would be even slightly sarcastic), "Well, if they don’t the last, six hundred pages, eight drafts, and ten years of my life have been wasted!", or a wide-eyed “Geez, I sure hope so!”
I have actually wondered about this, though, as I ran my eyes along the new book shelf in the middle grade section of our local library. It sure seems as if the majority of titles for kids in the age group I’m writing for involve some sort of unworldly creature that must be vanquished. Which is not to say that that is not in and of itself an adventure, and thus an adventure story.
But while I admit to having an extremely vivid imagination, it tends to stay grounded on earth. And while I did enjoy the occasional fantasy like Madeleine L’Engles’s A Wrinkle in Time, or Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, I tended to prefer My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, the Misty of Chincoteague series by Marguerite Henry . . .
I asked our local librarian if kids still took out the books I loved in my childhood and the ones I continued reading through adolescence and into high school whenever I needed the comfort of the familiar - the Lois Lenski series including Strawberry Girl, Blue Ridge Billy, and Bayou Suzette, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, Kin Platt’s The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear. (Okay, I admit I was a bit morbid back then.)
She assured me adventure stories were still popular with both boys and girls. Gary Paulsen’ Hatchet, The River and others, Ben Mikaelsen’s, Stranded, Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me; books that take you out of yourself and away, but not so far away that you don’t think, yeah, I could do that. Or, I wish I’d been able to do that. Or even, I wish I’d grown up there.
So that’s the kind of books I’ve written. The sort of if-I’d grown-up-there-I-could-have-done-that books that I loved to read. Now, will kids these days want to read them?
Geez, I hope so.
Just to show you I haven't changed, here's a few shots of my bookshelf now-