I’ve recently taken an interest in the classification of books for kids. I know, I’m strange and boring all at the same time. I don’t know how I do it. Anyway, it’s been on my mind and after trying to explain some of my ideas to my three-year old son I’ve come up with a short list of three kinds of books, The three. Have a glance at them and please disagree with me. Like I said I have an interest in it and I’d actually like to come up with something more concrete.
Kids just plain love funny books and I think it deserves a whole category. And it’s no slight being put in the “funny” category. Humans laugh. Stop being so serious and get over it. Read Ion by comic master, Plato, or something. We need funny books and funny books can be important.
At the risk of sounding corny, life is an adventure—wait, ugh, that does sound corny. Um, adventure books in my mind are Odyssean, that is, essentially, someone goes somewhere and has some trouble getting back. Odyssean adventure, or the Journey Home, always shows up on reductionist plot/theme lists (like this one!) and some days I think it’s the only story.
Finally, we have Wisdom Books. When you’re reading your child Bible stories or books on manners or nouns you’re reading wisdom literature. There’s no ancient literature specialists reading this is there? No? Good. Yes, you’re reading wisdom literature. And I don’t think a book has to start out as wisdom literature either. Parents make it wisdom by feeding it to their children. A parent’s authority makes it wisdom. For example, I grew up thinking Doc Savage was wisdom literature.
The Crossover, Grown-up Reading, Your suggestions
Of course, most books crossover into more than one category. We have wise books that are funny and funny adventures and so on. Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go sits in all three of my categories. But my categories completely fall apart for grown-up reading and I should stress here that I know almost nothing about serious literary criticism—but you knew that already. Anyway, for adult reading I’ll be super-reductionist and say there is only comedy or tragedy. Aristotle backs me up, so it’s a safe bet (you know, if ignoring a couple thousand years of literary theory and development can be considered a safe bet).
Like I said, please disagree with me and throw in your suggestions. Comment away.