Imagine there was a great new academic book on dinosaurs, and an enterprising author who wanted to come up with a version of it for younger readers. The author would face a series of choices. Very likely, none of the text could be used — the professor would surely have written for his peers using the shared language of experts in his field. Perhaps some of the illustrations might be useful in a kids book, but there is no guarantee that the professor would own the rights to those images. Thus to take an academic book, even on a popular topic like dinosaurs, and make it into one for our crowd would mean creating an entirely new book.
But what of a middle case — lets say Walking With the Dinosaurs made a coffee table book to go with its TV series. Now the art would come from the show, and the language would be aimed at the adult general reader — 8th grade level. There I would say you run into a different problem: the book is so close to one aimed at kids, it becomes in a way harder to define what you need to change. And yet the first book was crafted to reach adult readers, so there is some difference.
I picked these cases because they outline the issues that I believe come up when you use any existing adult book as your source. You have to dig out, find, what could be the kids’ book in a package that has completely different aims. And that is why I think the best path for the author (or editor) who is aiming to reach younger readers is to use the adult source not as a text to adjust, but as an entry to a set of experiences that need to be compeltely reimagined. You do not adapt an adult source, you mine it to give direction and stimulus to an entirely new kids book.
What do you think? Examples, good and bad, of kids books that have some relationship to adult texts?