One-Minute Book Reviews

March 21, 2009

What Is the Difference Between Children’s Books and for Books for Adults? (Quote of the Day / Humphrey Carpenter)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:28 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

More and more adult novels are being written at an 8- or 9-year-old reading level, if my research is an indication. So what’s the difference between children’s books and those for adults?

Humphrey Carpenter wrote in his trailblazing 1985 study of Victorian children’s literature, Secret Gardens, which has become modern classic:

“All children’s books are about ideals. Adult fiction sets out to portray the world as it really is; books for children present it as it should be.”

That may have been true when the first edition of Secret Gardens appeared and may still be true of the best children’s books. But in the two decades, children’s fiction has become far more likely to portray “the world as it really is” and to deal with subjects once found only in books for adults. Not everyone agrees that this change has been beneficial, I’m posting this quote as a reminder of it. Children need to have hope for the future. They get it partly from imaginative literature that shows an ideal world, or life as it could be, not as it is. The title of Carpenter’s study was inspired by a classic novel in that category, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, which you can download for free on its page at the Project Gutenberg site.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.



  1. Thanks for this reminder.

    I loved Francis Hodgson Burnett’s books as a child, especially the one about the Lost Prince. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m a more idealistic person as a result of reading such books while growing up.

    Comment by AR — March 24, 2009 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Alana. I got so much optimism about life from some of those idealistic books, including Louisa May Alcott’s. And the realism in children’s books is so heavy now, I often wonder where children are finding optimism today. They may have sources, but I hope a lot of them are still enjoying Burnett, too.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — March 25, 2009 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

  2. […] One-minute Book reviews. (2018). What is the difference between children’s books and for books for adults? (Quote of the day/ Humprey Carpenter) Available at:… […]

    Pingback by Designing Beautiful Books: Past and Present: Designing for Children and Adult audience – From Print to Digital: Publishing Revolutions — April 15, 2018 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: