Great Salon piece evaluating the recent trend for literary and genre authors like Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Carl Hiaasen and Isabel Allende to turn their hands to kids literature. I've recently read Coraline, Neil Gaiman's wicked-creepy kids' novel, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm a little disappointed that the author missed out on literary-horror giant Kathe Koja's kids' book, Straydog, which should absolutely be at the top of your (and your kids') to-read list. Koja is nothing less than a genius, and it was a bright day for kids' literature when she turned her prodigous talents to kids' books.
It's partly the memory of the potency of their childhood reading that prompts many adult authors to try their hand at the form. Handler says, "You never love a book the way you love a book when you're 10. No matter how much I admire the work of Nabokov or Murakami, I'm not going to reread 'Lolita' or 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' nearly as many times as I reread 'Harriet the Spy' in third grade." (It might be interesting to see what part "Harriet the Spy," a book about the pleasures of voyeurism if ever there was one, played in the development of future film critics. I know of at least three who worshipped it as kids.)
Chabon feels similarly: "You never forget the delight that the books you loved as a child brought you; it's all still there, you remember it. It's fairly inevitable, I'd say, to want to try and get some of that for your own kids; but in the past, in this country at least, it was not necessarily feasible and perhaps not quite taken seriously enough."
As Chabon notes, the appearance of these books does seem, for some of the writers at least, tied to the children in their lives. Isabel Allende says that her new "City of the Beasts" was inspired by reading to her grandchildren. The household of Clive Barker, whose "Abarat" is the first in a new fantasy series, includes the teenage daughter of his partner. Michael Chabon is only partly joking when he says that he always thought he was going to write kids books because he was a kid when he first wanted to become a writer.