This is a question I am asked often, in emails from parents or teachers, and they are referring to the age of the reader. Should our school use this book in fifth grade, or is it better saved till seventh? Can I give this to my 10-year-old grandson for his birthday? I can answer that to some degree (THE GIVER, for example, is better saved till seventh; and save it, why don't you, till his 12th birthday) but in truth, kids are so individual...people are so individual...that no single answer serves everyone.
And it is not something I think about as I write.
Many, many years ago, 1975 I think it was, I published a short story in Redbook magazine. (That magazine was very different then; I don't think it even publishes fiction any more). It was a story for adults, but it was about a child; it was told through the perceptions of a nine-year-old.
Not long ago a publisher contacted me and said they would like to have that story beautifully illustrated and publish it as a picture book. A picture book? I thought. PIcture books are, by and large, for kids. This was a story for adults. At least I wrote it for adults. But I went back and re-read the story. In my mind, for the first time, I could see it with maybe water color illustrations. I could see the little girl (of course I could; she was me) and for the first time I could see that the story did in fact have something to say to a larger audience, one that included young people. Not four year olds. Not six year olds. But young girls, the age that the girl in the story is...the age that I was, in the story. And so I gave them permisison to give it a try.
But I was not thinking of them as the readers, when I wrote the story more than 30 years ago....