The cat pictured is very fond of Heinrich Böll.
The others were raised on George MacDonald’s The Princess and Curdie. (I read them a couple of pages once.)
The great thing about MacDonald is that he also wrote for adults. I discovered Lilith when I was 12 in one of those Ballantine ’60s fantasy editions with the pretty covers. Amazon says: “First published in 1895 …, this is the story of the aptly named Mr. Vane, his magical house, and the journeys into another world into which it leads him.”
So I started thinking: what other children’s writers also wrote for adults? After MacDonald I came up with:
2. Madeleine L’Engle. L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is a classic, but she also wrote adult books. I very much enjoyed her novel, A Live Coal from the Sea, a sequel to her children’s book, Camilla.
Camilla, now an old woman, is an astronomer who has had a rich life as a college professor at her alma mater. She adored and was adored by her late husband, Mac, a minister. Her children, Taxi and Frankie, and granddaughter, Raffi, are more complicated. After Camilla wins an award for astronomy, Taxi, a neurotic actor, stirs things up. He hints to Raffi that Camilla is not really her grandmother. The narrative goes back and forth in time so we know what happened.
L’Engle fans may like this: I’m not sure about anybody else.
3. Rumer Godden wrote many children’s books, among them A Doll’s House and An Episode of Sparrows. But her adult novels are especially good: my favorite is Kingfishers Catch Fire, an autobiographical “pre-hippie” novel in which Sophie, an impoverished young woman, moves with her two children to Kashmir to “live simply.” The misunderstandings between her and the villagers cause an unexpected crisis.
4. Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, wrote some good adult books. Are you familiar with Hospital Sketches, her chronicle of her nursing in the Civil War?
5. I enjoyed Penelope Farmer’s Charlotte Sometimes and The Summer Birds (now available from NYBR), and I hanker for her out-of-print but wildly overpriced adult novel, Glasshousees. According to Amazon, it is “An intense novel of three characters, Grace, her husband Jas, and her young apprentice, set in the suggestive, obsessive milieu of a glassblowing workshop.”
6. I grew up on Eloise Mcgraw’s Mara Daughter of the Nile and The Golden Goblet. She also wrote an adult novel, Pharaoh. It’s going for $30-some at Amazon, so I’ll have to pass.
7. Did you read Mary Norton’s The Borrowers books? How about her adult fiction, The Bread and Butter Stories? According to Amazon, these are period pieces about being an upper-middle-class woman in the 1940s and early 1950s.
8. E. Nesbit was my favorite writer when I was a child. Though I’ve found her adult books disappointing, The Red House, the story of a married couple who inherit a large house, is very funny–and the characters also meet the Bastables (characters in three of her children’s books).
9. L. M. Montgomery, best known for Anne of Green Gables, wrote at least one adult book, The Blue Castle, about a 27-year-old spinster who rebels against her family. I haven’t read it.
10. John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, a stunning science fiction novel, made me want to read more of his books. I haven’t read The Chrysalids, available from NYBR, which is apparently a children’s novel . The book description says; “Like everyone else in the nuclear-wasted world he lives in, David is loyal to his kind and on the watch for anyone who deviates from the ideological or genetic norm. But what would happen if it were revealed that David himself was a mutant?”
It sounds interesting, doesn’t it?
What children’s writers do you know who wrote for adults?
Are any of them any good at it?