Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Children get it....

I visited New Windsor School on Tuesday for my author-in-residence programme there and had such a lovely visit. I talked to two groups about ideas and plotting and I participated in one of the school's book clubs. We'd been reading Red Rocks by Rachael King which we'd all enjoyed. We discussed our favourite bits and our favourite characters. We liked how exciting and adventurous the story was. Many of the children had enjoyed the vivid description of the windswept Wellington coastline. Everyone agreed we'd like more children's books from Ms King please (I hear she is working on another one - yay!). And then as the discussion continued someone mentioned how they had connected with the main character in our previous book club read, my book Jack the Viking. Several members of the group said the words every author wants to hear - it was like what happened to me...that's just how I felt...- I loved that the fact Jack is able to overcome his problems was empowering for them, that I had written a character that was true to their experience. I'm glad I didn't cry but I sure felt like it. For those children my book made a difference and I was overjoyed.

We do have to be careful in our roles as adult writers and adult readers of children's material though. I agree with celebrated Australian children's writer Mem Fox who said "Do not write down to children. if the story makes adults wince, it will make children wince too. Write always for extremely clever, well-adjusted, lively children. Young readers will appreciate the compliment" ( from Mem Fox's Do's and Don'ts for Picture Books here - thanks to Sher Foley for the link). I think I would add that children are way smarter than us adults sometimes. They may be children with less experience but that doesn't make them less intelligent. Sometimes our maturity and experience and cynicism etc... is a burden that jaundices our view. I think this is well illustrated by this lovely piece found here at Beattie's Blog. Just cos we can't sort ourselves out as adults doesn't mean children don't know what's what. We should stop telling them what to read and how to live their lives and just be a better example ourselves

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