When children find out I have written a book they usually ask ‘What’s it about?’ Easy. I can answer ‘Adventure, mystery, monsters and dragons.’ But when adults find out I have written a book they often ask ‘What age is it for?’ Not so easy for me to answer.
Readers are individuals with hugely varying tastes and abilities. If I say my book is for ages 10+, then am I excluding the under 10s who might enjoy it? And what about the 14, 16 or 36 year olds? Will they dismiss my book as being ‘too young’ for them?
I didn’t write Indigo’s Dragon with a reader of a particular age in mind. I wrote it for anyone and everyone who loves adventure, mystery, monsters and dragons, and I believe that category can include children and adults of many different ages. The story was inspired by folklore and mythology; the types of tales that have been told for centuries and enjoyed by the youngest children and the oldest grandparents, sitting around a fire. My hope is that readers will pick up my book because they like the sound of the story, not because they fit into a particular age group.
Books should welcome readers of all ages and not exclude anyone based on their age, or any other factor. I am nearly 40 and I read books that appeal to me. They are in different genres – fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, historical, contemporary – but are pretty much always categorised as middle grade, teen or young adult. It’s just as well I am not put off by these labels as I would have missed out on some truly brilliant books. Likewise my children still read picture books alongside short chapter books and full length novels. Wouldn’t it be awful if they didn’t read a book they liked the sound of just because they thought it was the wrong age for them!
Opposition to the idea of book banding has been around as long as book banding itself, so why are books still, more often than not, grouped by age? The argument for age banding is that it helps adults choose books for children. However there are other, better ways to help a child find the right book for them. Books are full of clues to help readers assess their suitability; the title, cover, blurb, typography, illustrations, length of chapters and number of pages will all influence a book’s appeal to a reader. Picking up a book and taking a look
inside, reading a page or two, is by far a more accurate way of assessing its suitability than an age band.
Also, let’s not forget the invaluable role of the experts. Librarians! You can ask a librarian, or a bookseller, to recommend some books for a seven year old who reads very well, dislikes scary stories but loves humour, and they will undoubtedly come up with some great suggestions. I have also found book bloggers incredibly useful in helping me find and choose books for myself and my children in recent years. Many write fantastic, detailed reviews that focus on content, not age bands, and have led me to some amazing books I would not have discovered without their help.
So, going back to the question I find so difficult to answer, ‘What age is your book for?’ Indigo’s Dragon is for anyone who loves adventure, mystery, monsters and dragons. Why don’t you pick it up, read a sample, and see if it is for you?
Sofi’s debut novel, Indigo’s Dragon, is published on June 23rd by Accent YA. You can find out more about Sofi and her books on her website.