Feb 14

Know Your Reader – Writing for Children

CharlesS experiment-38-frontGuest post by Charles Suddeth

I am primarily a children’s writer. I belong to SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators). The rule of thumb is that children like to read books with the main character their age or slightly older. Recommended ages for readers and main characters vary from publisher to publisher, so these are general guidelines:

Picture Books: Ages 3 to 7, with main character’s ages 5 to 9 (Board Books for younger readers and Easy Readers for slightly older readers extends this range in both directions)
Middle Grade (Middle Reader’s): Ages 8 to 13, with main character’s ages 10 to 14 (slightly younger readers may read Chapter Books—early middle reader’s books with a limited number of illustrations; slightly older readers may read Tween fiction involving dating)

Young Adult: Ages 14 to 18; high school readers. Main character’s ages high school freshmen to seniors. (New Adult, Young Adult fiction geared toward college-age readers, is becoming popular)

Here are the issues the main characters usually deal with for each category:

Picture Books: Searching for Security. Children this age, even while playing and having fun, need to know their parents are there for them with love, protection, and life’s necessities. The Llama Llama series of books by author/illustrator Anna Dewdney is about a baby llama enduring various adventures and challenges, but above all, Mamma remains nearby. Middle Grade: Searching for Identity. Children in this age are not certain who they are or what their abilities are. They often do things in groups to obtain peer approval, because they lack self-confidence and self-identity. J K Rowling’s early Harry Potter books are an example. Harry didn’t know he was a wizard with powers or that he would have a quest. And he didn’t know who his allies (his group) would be, but he gradually learned.

Young Adult: Searching for Independence. Teenagers are famous for their rebellion against their parents, sometimes called “attitude.” Psychologists have described this as subconscious psychological efforts to separate themselves from their families, so they can become adults. Most people think of the Hunger Games as pure survival. Katniss lost her mother, but she is seeking independence from the oppressive, totalitarian society that replaced her parents.

New Adult is often described older teens and/or undergraduate college students exploring their new-found independence. My 4RV Publishing thriller, Experiment 38, will be New Adult. The main character has just graduated from high school. She quickly learns that independence from her parents has its dangers.

Another peculiarity of writing for children is that boys prefer to read books where the main character is a boy, but girls will read books where the main character is a boy or girl.

My favorite rule for writing is: Take your reader where they are not expecting to go. This also applies to children. Once you know your audience you can take them to destinations unknown and even undreamed of.

CharlesS feb2015Charles Suddeth was born in Jeffersonville, Indiana, grew up in suburban Detroit, Michigan, and has spent his adult life in Louisville, Kentucky. He graduated from Michigan State University. He belongs to Green River Writers (Contest Director), the Midsouth SCBWI (Louisville Schmooze host), International Thriller Writers, and the Kentucky State Poetry Society. He also leads two critique groups for children’s writers.He has had numerous poems, short stories, and books published, including a poem in Spider magazine.

Experiment 38 (young adult thriller, 4RV Publishing, paperback): Eighteen-year-old Emily, small for her age, lives alone with her scientist-father and learns too late that he holds a terrible secret, one that might destroy her life.As she and her boyfriend, Nate, try to unraveel the mystery behind her father’s secret, they face danger and uncertainty .ISBN: 78-1-940310-02-2

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Charles, thank you for being a guest here! I hadn’t heard of “new adult.” Interesting new genre. Best wishes for a successful book launch.

Karen

 

Jan 22

Using The Boy Who Ran as a Teaching Tool

The Boy Who Ran Today, I’m pleased to be hosting children’s author Michael Selden for Day 3 of his virtual book tour through the National Writing for Children Center.

Using “The Boy Who Ran” as a Teaching Tool

If I were using THE BOY WHO RAN as a teaching tool, I might link the story of the boy having overcome adversity with other noted efforts, like the digging of the Panama Canal or the Apollo Mission. His mission in the book, which he tackled with the same intensity he used to run silently through the forest, was to learn to hunt, but really to become an integral part of the village.  I tried to show the focus he used, both here as well as in the way he behaved with White Flank as well—a singular purpose, undeterred even by his nemesis.

At the same time, you can see him changing as well, opening up to the concept of friendship with Morning Song and Gray Wolf. Finally, he was forced to face the ghosts of his past and resolve this and it freed him of the spell that kept him silent.

I’d want to show students how allowing himself to be shackled this way was foolish, that it was the sharing of skills and a sense of community he lacked. He waited far too long to open up, and this could serve as a lesson to seek help and advice.

Finally, I’d use the information I gathered and tried to share about the history of the times and to seek out links about the tools, foods, artifacts, and what we’ve learned about the people of the time. Note the link shown between White Flank and the boy. People of the times, apparently, had a sense of spiritual transformation between animal and human “forms”.

ColoradoMichael Selden has lived all around the world and has been an eyewitness to numerous historical events such as the building of the Berlin Wall. His father was a non-commissioned officer in the United States Air Force. Mike was graduated from St. Mary’s High School, Colorado Springs Colorado and later earned a degree in physics from the University of Florida.

He has worked as a research physicist, program manager, and principal investigator on numerous scientific and engineering efforts his career. He first developed technologies and techniques that helped expand our understanding of the earth and the earth-moon system and even to validate the relativity principle of equivalence.

When Michael is not writing, reading or staying abreast of the latest developments in the world of physics, he likes to travel and hike, cook, and ride motorcycles, meet up with friends. He is learning how to fly-fish and hunt.

Find out more about Michael Selden and his book at www.michaelselden.com.

* The picture with the gorgeous scenery is where Michael lives and writes at 8500 feet. It’s in the middle of a million acre park in a town called Woodland Park, Colorado.
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To continue following Michael’s book tour, visit http://writingforchildrencenter.com/

Jan 14

Trade book Tips for Teachers from Children’s Author Susanna Leonard Hill

Susanna HillToday, I’m pleased to be hosting children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill. This is Day 3 of her virtual book tour through the National Writing for Children Center. Susanna will be talking about how her books can be used in a classroom setting.

Trade book Tips for Teachers from Children’s Author Susanna Leonard Hill

I am in awe of teachers.

The patience, good humor, intelligence and caring that go into a career in teaching are monumental.

The job they do is one of the most important jobs there is and every teacher I’ve met is more than up to the task.

So I don’t think I have much to tell them about using books in their classrooms 

As far as my own books, though, I can suggest that PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS could be included in a Groundhog Day unit for preschool through Grade 2.  The story illustrates what happens on Groundhog Day, and back matter is appended for ease of lesson expansion in the classroom.  I also have quite a few free downloadable activities on my website which teachers might like to incorporate including coloring pages, paper doll kits, mazes, word searches, madlibs, library activities, and classroom guides.  (Please see http://www.susannahill.com/resources.html).  PHYLLIS can also be fun for signs of spring activities and classroom predictions about 6 more weeks of winter or early spring.

Most of my other books can also be used in the classroom for one unit or another.  APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS!, a sequel to PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS, is about April Fools’ Day and could be incorporated into a unit on that holiday, or on spring.

NOT YET, ROSE is about a little girl waiting for a new baby and could be included in a unit on families.

CAN’T SLEEP WITHOUT SHEEP is about a child who has trouble falling asleep and could be used in conjunction with discussions about bedtime and imagination and problem solving.

NO SWORD FIGHTING IN THE HOUSE is about brothers who take their mother’s instructions a little too literally and could be used in conjunction with talking about actual meaning vs. intended meaning, puns, or language.

ALPHABEDTIME! (forthcoming from Nancy Paulsen Books in 2015) will be able to be used for younger children learning the alphabet.

As a picture book writer, I like to see parents and teachers use picture books and expand on what they have to offer.  I run a weekly feature on my blog called Perfect Picture Books.  Each week twenty or more new books are added to our alphabetized and themed lists.  The books are always ones that are highly recommended by the reviewer and they are always accompanied by expansion activities to make life a little easier for parents, teachers, and homeschoolers looking for a way to include picture books in lesson plans or daily activities.  (Please see http://susannahill.blogspot.com/p/perfect-picture-books.html)  (I’m in the process of updating to a more user-friendly format, so please be forgiving as the transfer takes place – not all the books are currently on the lists.)

I hope you’ll come visit! 

PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS Susanna (Leonard) Hill is the award winning author of nearly a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner.)

Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one hopefully forthcoming in Korean.

To check out tomorrow’s hosting link, please visit the National Writing for Children Center site: http://writingforchildrencenter.com/