Only the works of Mao Tse-tung separate the world’s bestselling book ever from what, primarily, is a book for children. At 3.9 billion copies, nothing comes close to the Bible for total worldwide sales. Mao’s iconic little red book, while outselling at 820 million copies the top placed work of fiction, probably has more limited global penetration.
So why, in a world awash with new books for adults in every genre and format, is the number 3 bestselling book ever, with 400 million sales, an 11 volume children’s story?
New popularity with adults
From its first instalment, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the book not only hit with the mark with the author’s target audience, it struck home with adult readers too.
J K Rowling’s boy-wizard adventures in the halls and towers of Hogwarts were so popular with adults that the whole series was republished in adult editions with darkly brooding, grown-up covers.
Adults, confessing to almost fanatical devotion, suffered almost as much criticism for their childish habits as the subject matter received for its undertones of magic and the supernatural.
Taking on the big themes of life
Whatever criticism may or may not be justified, Harry Potter is wildly successful with the estimated 1 in 4 adults who would never otherwise read a book of any description.
Yet this was a children’s story book. Set in a world that locked adults out of the main adventure. Constructed on simple themes of good versus evil: with vicious, unredeemable villains and honourable, courageous heroes.
There are sub-plots of treachery and betrayal, the underlying mystery of who exactly Harry Potter is and a world of dark secrets and incomplete revelation. Much is left to the reader’s creative exploration – at least until the film versions replaced it with the imposition of spectacular special effects.
Telling a story with room for God
It’s a world that grown-ups wish was real. A world where they know where they stand, and where their decisions and actions make a real, life and death difference.
J K Rowling is not the only children’s author to benefit from sales to adults. Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials series) is also increasingly read by adults. From first to last these are, of course, simply made up stories. But within the covers and in the head of the reader, they are real.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that in these ‘real’ worlds, there is no God – at least not in the sense that people of faith would recognise. And that’s one of the big questions that commercial-world children’s authors seem reluctant to face.
New ways for telling stories
One Christian children’s author responding directly to the success of fantasy and supernatural novles is G P Taylor, creator of the ‘Shadowmancer’ and ‘Dopple Ganger’ stories.
Cleric turned writer, G P Taylor, set out to engage the 95% of children who are Biblically illiterate. With his fresh, new concept of ‘illustra-novellas’ – part text and part manga-style graphic-novel, Christian themes of forgiveness, redemption and grace are made attractive and accessible to pre-teen readers.
For the brightest on line choice of age appropriate well written, well illustrated and well presented Christian reads for children – including books the illustra-novellas of G P Taylor, click the children tab at Eden.co.uk and follow the links.
Quick Guide to Christian fiction for Children
What is that?
- Fiction that engages the minds of 9s to 13s (and increasingly grown-ups) to explore the big themes of life through story and imagination.
- Fiction that meets children right where they are with age appropriate, text, illustrations and faith-based content to rival the offerings of the commercial world.
- A wide range of genre and subjects from enriched Bible re-telling, historical novels, present day mysteries, science fiction, graphic style, youth culture and darker-themed novels all with strong Christian themes.
What will it do for me?
- Give you a great read that brings insight into the big themes of the Christian faith including forgiveness, grace and what it means to live a life transformed by Christ.
- Show you encouragement, inspiration and reassurance in the search for your own story and your role within God’s great continuing story.
- Let you gove a gift to encourage, inspire or reassure another in their search to find their own role in God’s unfolding plan.
Over to You
At Eden.co.uk you can find a truly interactive Christian community helping you find all you need to live, learn and grow your faith.
Jesus used fiction to package his teaching on the big themes of life. His stories are still retold to children as something they can easily grasp and understand. His stories weren’t told to listeners with any Christian tradition, yet he rarely explained his stories.
- What’s the most influential piece of children’s fiction you’ve read recently and what would you recommend for a reader with no Christian tradition today?
- Did you think messages in modern Christian fiction for pre-teen children is cleverly packaged into the story, or appears as a bolt-on after thought?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips - bizarre and brilliant at Eden.co.uk
February 16th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison