At my library, we take turns hosting four week long programs for different age groups. I usually take the 9-11 year old kids. This last month we did a comparison of two books: The Nixie's Song, Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, by Tony DiTerlizza and Holly Black; and 13 Treasures, by Michelle Harrison.
The kids soon realized both stories were about fairies, and not the sweet little Disney kind. These fairies had serious issues and the characters became entangled with the fairy worlds created by the authors. We used Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide To The Fantastical World Around You. We searched the colorful pages and found the fairies mentioned in both books. The kids were quite surprised to discover a fairy from 13 Treasures in a Spiderwick Field Guide.
Then the kids noticed more similarities. One girl asked, "Did the author of 13 Treasures remake the first Spiderwick book?" I had no answer for her except, "I bet she read them, yes."
Each week I pulled several vocabulary words from each book and posted them without definitions. I love playing word games and I asked each kid to select a word they wanted to know more about. Many of the words came from the 13 Treasures side of the board. They wanted to know what these big words meant.
Next week will be our final day of the program. We will play a game I made up for them. It's a bit like Jeopardy. We will have seven categories: three about The Nixie's Song: characters and plot, fairy mischief and vocabulary. We will have the same for 13 Treasures. The seventh category is UP 4 GRABS, mostly questions about the crafts and activities we did in the previous weeks.
Each week I encouraged the kids to take out any of the three books to read. So far, nearly everyone has taken home Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide, only a handful have taken The Nixie's Song, and no one has ventured to take 13 Treasures. I'm still hopeful they will be intrigued enough to check out one of these great books. This is the first time we have not read a whole book together. I hope with a bit more encouragement a few more will be tempted into reading one or both of the books.
So in running this program, I learned a few things to help my own writing. Using big words does not enhance the story. I knew this already, but it proved to be a good reminder. I was also reminded not to have page after page of narrative. Folks tend to skim over these parts and I want my readers to read each sentence.
Writers need to keep the plot moving and the characters growing and learning.
Even in children's books!
Til next time ~