I’ve always been interested in books with child narrators because I think one of the hardest jobs writers can set for themselves is the creation of a child’s voice. The successful portrayal of a child narrator involves not only age-appropriate vocabulary and sentence structure, but also a way of looking at the world that fits the child’s age.
Emma Donoghue does a remarkable job with 5-year-old Jack in the novel Room. When the book first came out, some critics said that Jack sounds much older than 5. They’re right: Jack doesn’t sound like a typical 5-year old.
But that’s because Jack isn’t a typical 5-year-old. He’s a child who has been confined to a single room for his entire life. The only person he’s had contact with is his mother, who has spent every moment of Jack’s 5 years looking out for him, trying to provide him as much stimulation as possible within their restricted environment. Jack has never talked to other children, only to his mother. I would have found it strange if Jack did sound like a typical 5-year-old.
Room is one of the best examples I know of how to create a convincing child narrator.
If you have a favorite novel narrated by a child, please let us know in the comment section.