Last weekend I ran a workshop on ‘Writing Illustrated Books’. It was great fun and, as always, attendees came ready-prepared with some fantastic pitches. One of the first issues I addressed with regards to the pitches was one of targeting. What, exactly, have you written? Is it a picture book for 0 – 5 year olds and, if so, which end of that market is it for – younger or older? Or is it young fiction for 5 – 8 year olds? And, again, same question, which end of that market is it for?
Usually, at some point during our discussions on targeting, at least one person will state that their book is for ‘all ages’. My book, they will say, can be read by anyone from the age of 0 – 100! And I will answer back – very, very firmly – that such a book doesn’t exist. Or not at submission stage anyway.
And yet, and yet….
My father is in a care home and can no longer see to read for himself. He is 86 years old and my mother visits him twice a day, to feed him, to talk to him, to comfort him and, sometimes, to read to him. Although, these days, very little interests him. The other day I dropped off a copy of our book Geronimo, The Dog Who Thinks He’s a Cat.
My mother hadn’t seen it and I thought she might like to give it to one of her friends with young grandchildren. That evening I received an enthusiastic call from her to say she had hugely enjoyed reading it to my father and describing the pictures to him. He’s a big dog-lover so I suppose it was no surprise that the story amused him.
So is Geronimo truly that rare thing – a book for all ages? Of course not! It’s a delightful book for the 4/5 plus age range and it just so happened that it amused my elderly father for an hour or two one afternoon. I still believe that accurate targeting is incredibly important when writing for children. But I also believe – more than ever – that the best children’s books can reach out to us all, no matter what age we are.