An Upsetting Book With a Happy Cover


Some of my favorite books are books written for children around 10 or 12 years old. Decades after I discovered them, I still love to re-read The Phantom Tollbooth, The House with the Clock in its Walls, and The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues. As an adult, I sometimes dip into today’s kid’s lit in hopes of coming across something to add to my favorites list.

This is how I wound up reading Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder. It’s a bored-rich-girl-becomes-challenged-poor-girl story where both her parents are alive and also redefining themselves. It was both silly and real, and it was a fun read. The main character Penny loves books. Most of what she knows about the world she learned from stories she’s read. So it isn’t surprising that she constantly comments on things around her in terms of children’s books.

I laughed out loud when I read this:

Maybe Duncan was like an upsetting book with an ordinary, happy cover. Maybe he was Bridge to Terabithia. —in Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder.

I remember being floored by the tragic story in Bridge to Terabithia when I read it as a kid. It is most certainly “an upsetting book with an ordinary, happy cover.” Penny Dreadful was full of passing observations about children’s books that I know well which is one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. It was fun to read a new story while be reminded of old ones.

I know there are lots of other adults reading young adult and even children’s fiction for pleasure. Which kid’s books are your favorites? Are you still reading kid lit today?


Published by

Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

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