Writing for Children and Young Adults: Those Kids Today

Contemporary Characters in Children’s Books

Are You There, God, It's Me, Margaret

So far, my published stories have been contemporary, set in the now, or at least in the very near past.

One of the big questions writing about contemporary stories is the degree to which the author should integrate current events, slang, and pop culture. A lot of people put forth the idea that we should create timeless children’s stories so that they will not seem dated too quickly and, therefore, they’ll be more appealing to each successive generation.

I’ve been thinking about that.

I’m younger than most but not all children’s book authors. Older than most but not all children’s book readers. And many of the books being marketed today as contemporary (with new covers featuring characters in current fashions and hair styles) seem dated to me. So do a lot of recently published books supposedly reflecting the now. They are not laden with pop culture references, but there is a historic sensibility to them.

The 1970s were as long ago to today’s kids as World War II was to GenX.

What I think is that most books with human characters are not timeless. But that’s okay.

A popular contemporary book from the 1970s, likeARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME MARGARET by Judy Blume, is a welcome historical read today.

So if you’re avoiding earmarks of the present only because it’s common wisdom, maybe it’s time to reconsider that. That said, it’s more an art than science. Don’t be too trendy.

Pick references that will convey decades, not nanoseconds.