This bit is from Diana Wynne Jones’s book of essays, Reflections: On the Magic of Writing, and I think it’s highly pertinent to what I was saying yesterday – it seems that she is arguing here for the same shift that I mentioned seeing, and it’s no accident that hers are among the earliest books I gave as examples in which it i a Very Bad Thing to have one’s magic taken away. (I recommend the book; there’s lots of fascinating stuff in it, as you might expect. This isn’t the first bit I wanted to quote, just the first one that actually pushed me hard enough to get me to go and type it all out.)

Most adults, in fact, if you question them, will admit that there was this marvelous book they read when they were eight, or ten, or maybe fifteen, that has lived in their minds ever since … The important thing about it is that it has entered this person’s consciousness at a time when ideas were still forming, waking their sense of wonder and forcing their ideas in a new direction – enlarging their imagination, in fact – and, by the mere fact of always being in their mind from then on, has influenced that reader’s entire personality. Permanently.

Anyone who writes for children has to bear in mind that one of their books might have this effect. It is quite a responsibility. I want to discuss this responsibility and — particularly — the ways in which it can be abused.

One adult I questions said that John Masefield’s The Box of Delights would have been his always-remembered marvelous book, but for the fact that when he thought of it he always remembered that at the end it turned out only to have been a dream. Quite right. This is cheating. It is giving a feast of imagination with one hand and taking it away with the other. It is as if Masefield’s nerve failed and he said at the end, “You needn’t bother to believe this.” But in doing so he had abused the responsibility he had by suddenly grinding the reader’s nose into a sober, waking life where the wonders he has just been telling you simply do not count.

If the wonders are going to be with you the rest of your life, why do they not count?

Many writers abuse their responsibility by answering this question in the dreariest possible way, “Because you are going to grow up.” C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books are probably the best-known examples of this abuse. In them, Peter and Susan, the two elder children, are unable to enter the magic land of Narnia once they get old enough to entertain thoughts of sex; and of the four adults who enter, two are outright villains and the other two are ignorant working people. Nobody else gets to Narnia until they are dead. Now Narnia, although it has Christian overtones, is preeminently the vivid land of the imagination and, to judge from Lewis’s other writings, I do not think he meant to imply that only criminals, young children and the uneducated working class can be allowed to exercise their imaginations. It was more as if he was here obeying what he thought were the rules of the genre. But the fact is that the implication is there, a glaring flaw in some seminally wonderful books, and has caused writers to believe that this is the rule for children’s books even to this day. When I first started writing for children, everyone was certain it was the rule. Publishers and agents were alarmed that I allowed adults notonly to notice that magical events were going on but actualy to take part in them; and they also got very concerned that I did not give the ages of the children involved – being worried, I suppose, that these children might be past puberty and thus disqualified from figuring in imaginative fiction.