I asked Nick to tell me why he liked Michael Chabon's Summerland recently. I'd read it when it came out, and while there were aspects of it that I liked, I remember thinking that it was not kid-friendly--that I didn't know any kids who would like it. I can't remember now if it was the nostalgia for baseball or the wordplay or what that made me think that. (Not the wordplay, though, what could I have been thinking?) Anyway, I asked him why he liked it. And then I mentioned that I was thinking about what made books "kid-friendly." And he said he didn't think Summerland was kid-friendly, even though he'd liked it, because (I think this is right) there were occasional "bad words" in it.
So we need to back up a bit. To one kid, at least, the very term "kid-friendly" is clearly an adultist term, one that has to do with what adults want kids to read rather than what kids really read. (I think he's influenced by the use of the term "family-friendly" all over the place, which usually does mean "devoid of any controversial content.") Now, I know that's not how the Cybils folks mean it--far from it, as is clear from this terrific post.
Unfortunately our conversation got side-tracked and he didn't tell me why he liked Summerland, so I don't know yet why I was wrong about it or how to define "kid-friendly" in a way that works for both him and me. More on that another time!