All Thou Writers for Children

Hie thee over to Todd Alcott's LiveJournal and read his reflections on E.T.: the Extraterrestrial. If E.T. were a book, it would be a perfect middle-grade fantasy novel, for all the reasons Mr. Alcott describes. Pay special attention to the advice (both Mr. Alcott's and Bob Dylan's) to "invert the cliche," and to the fact that all great fantasy has a larger emotional or moral metaphor working within it. . . . That's what separates the Rowlings and Pullmans and Constables from the people who play with elves and dragons.

That said, I can guess why Mr. Alcott's six-year-old son prefers Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark to E.T. -- it is much easier and more pleasurable to identify with heroes and fighters against the Dark Side than it is to identify with Elliott, who starts out as your standard unpowerful (and kind of whiny) eleven-year-old middle child, and then achieves a domestic greatness (he helps a friend) rather than a lasting heroic one. That domestic greatness sets him on the way to later heroic greatness, certainly, but the pleasures of this particular journey may be better understood and appreciated by adults than by children. So perhaps E.T. wouldn't make a perfect middle-grade fantasy novel, but a perfect adult fantasy novel about a middle-grader -- the 1980s California alien equivalent of Jim the Boy. Hmm.