by John M. Floyd
I’ve always been impressed by the way some authors can write successfully in different genres: Nora Roberts, James Rollins, Margaret Atwood, Larry McMurtry, Joyce Carol Oates, and many others.
But what impresses me the most is when I find out that an author I already enjoy reading, like James Patterson or Roald Dahl, has also written children’s books. To me that’s an even bigger genre jump than the one from romance to mystery, or thriller to sci-fi, or western to literary. To write quality fiction for young readers involves more than just toning down the sex and violence and language.
I’ve read a number of those “kids’ books by adult-fiction writers,” including The Eyes of the Dragon and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King, both of which I thought were excellent. And today I’d like to mention three that were written by established crime/suspense authors:
A Coyote’s in the House, Elmore Leonard
According to Amazon, this book is geared to children in grades five to eight, so the fact that I enjoyed it might tell you something about my maturity level. My copy is hardcover, 149 pages. It tells a cute story — a Southern California coyote and a house dog meet and decide to switch places — and of course teaches a life lesson in the process.
Hoot, Carl Hiaasen
This one’s also for the ten-to-fifteen age group, and was better, I thought, than its 2006 movie adaptation. Around 300 pages in hardcover, it features a relocated and bullied twelve-year-old who befriends a homeless boy and defends a family of owls endangered by Florida developers. Hiaasen’s humor is present as always — it could be argued that his genre is more humor than crime anyway — and it’s an interesting story.
Edenville Owls, Robert B. Parker
The most “serious” of the three, EO combines high-school coming-of-age problems with a real mystery. I would think its target audience is about the same as for Coyote and Hoot, and the Owls in this one are a junior varsity basketball team. I found that it has the same kind of fast-moving plot and clever dialogue in its 194 pages that you’d expect to find in Parker’s adult mystery fiction.
Would you — or any grownup except me — enjoy these books? Who knows? Your kids or grandkids almost certainly would. But I’ll tell you this: I didn’t think I’d like them at all, and it didn’t take long to see I was mistaken. All three stories are delightful.
They made me feel young again.