In honor of Children's Book Week: Embrace your inner young reader

"No more smuggling, no more shame," says one adult reader confessing to her passion for children's books.

Illustration from "The North Star" by Peter H. Reynolds
Would you rather read like a child?

Children's Book Week 2010 is being celebrated from May 10-16. Could there be a better time to confess that you'd really rather read a book for kids?

If you follow book news, you already know that there are plenty of readers who either forsake adult lit for books aimed at young readers – or simply wish that they could. Rebecca Serle's piece on Huffington Post yesterday was just one more profession of kiddie-book love. And she explains quite succinctly what it was that turned her from the "serious" and "challenging" world of adult lit to that of kid's books: joy.

"Because the true secret to writing is not brilliance or talent or even commitment – albeit they're important," she writes. "The secret to writing is joy. And we could all, even us grown ups, use a little more of that."

Serle is far from alone. "No more smuggling. No more shame," wrote one Midwestern reader as she came out in the open and joined a children's book club at her local bookstore.

Or what about the Canadian reader who confessed to a journalist that she had been known to wrap teen novels "inside an issue of The Economist while reading in public"?

Author Gretchen Rubin confesses in "The Happiness Project" that, while others may think she should be reading books about foreign policy or jazz, she finally had to admit to herself that she'd much rather be reading books for children. She finally organized a children's book club for adult readers – and found that it made her quite happy. (The group quickly became so popular that it had to divide into two to manage the large number of readers who were interested.)

Rebecca Stead, author of the Newbery Medal-winning young adult book "When You Reach Me" has also explained that she began her writing career determined to turn out a very serious piece of adult fiction. It was only after her child inadvertently destroyed the contents of her laptop (serious manuscript included) that she began reading children's lit – and discovered that for her it unlocked both joy and a fresh stream of creativity.

Teen lit in particular is a hot field today. Plenty of adult readers have come out of the closet about their enthusiasm for J.K. Rowling and "Harry Potter" as well as Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" trilogy. But if these don't appeal – or you've already been there and want to go beyond – you could start by checking out this list of teen books recommended for adult readers assembled by Washington state librarian Angelina Benedetti who wrote a column for Library Journal called "35 Going On 13."

Benedetti's list is great, including titles like "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation," by M.T. Anderson; "What I Saw and Why I Lied," by Judy Blundell; "Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins; and "Nation" by Terry Pratchett. As Benedetti notes, in many ways these titles can be better appreciated by adults than by teens.

And yet they lack nothing an adult really needs. For Serle it was the joy that drew her in. But Benedetti has a more pragmatic explanation for the adults who devour teen lit: it's the chance, she says, to experience “a quick literary fix without the padding.”

For today's overcommitted reader, it sounds likes a pretty appealing notion.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

Are you a reader who secretly prefers children's books to adult lit? Join the Monitor's book discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

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