25 years into creating my comic strip “Tom the Dancing Bug,” I’ve just embarked on another venture: writing books for kids. My series of books, The EMU Club Adventures, began in April with Alien Invasion in My Backyard, and the second installment, Ghostly Thief of Time, was released last month.
Now, “Tom the Dancing Bug” is certainly not for kids, but writing for kids was something I’ve always wanted to do. I love kids’ literature and culture, and I love kids; if I’m at a gathering of friends and family, you’ll probably find me laughing it up with the kids.
But as I started this new task, I was kind of worried about whether I could write for an audience that wasn’t me. My comic strip is pretty much what I would want to read – would consciously writing for another audience render the work stilted, off-target, or even pandering?
I once saw Maurice Sendak, one of the very greatest children’s authors ever, tell Stephen Colbert in an interview, “I don’t write for children. I write – and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!’”
Well, I’ve spent a lot of years showing myself what I write, and it’s usually satirical or absurdist takes on things like income inequality, religion, and the new economy. None of which a kid with any good sense would have any interest in.
As I began my project, I happened to go to a panel discussion of children’s authors at the New York Public Library, because some of my kids’ favorite authors were participating. Read the rest