Tuesday, May 25, 2010

When Readers Respond

Sometimes I think that writers of fiction for adults miss out a bit. They don't get to do school visits, and although the famous ones get fan mail, no doubt, I wonder if they ever get a group response. Book clubs don't count because that's people talking about your book without you being there, and you rarely get to hear what they say. And I've stood in book signing queues and heard what adults say to their favourite authors. Mostly it doesn't bear repeating!

But kids are so honest that it's scary. They speak from the heart about what they thought about your book, and what they liked and didn't like. I'll never forget a letter from a kid who said one of my books was great but "my brother said it was boring". It made me want to withdraw the book from all of the bookshops and rewrite it. Last week I received an email from a teacher-librarian at a school I'll be visiting next month (Avalon Public School). Two of the classes have been reading my verse novel,Farm Kid , and I was sent a collection of their responses. Instead of being asked to "analyse" the story, they were simply asked to write about how it made them feel.
Farm Kid Here are some of them:

This book is great with its descriptions but it is also very sad and this is probably the only book that does not have a happy ending which is why this book is different to other books. It has made me realize that it is not easy to live on a farm. Kye Year 4

I think Farm Kid is a sad book and a happy book. The contents of Farm Kid make you really think about life on the farm. Zack is a wonderful character and he must have such a hard life with all those complications. The mum and dad must be really worried about Zack and his sister growing up. Emma Year 4

Farm Kid was a very funny, exciting book at first but then it gradually got sadder and more emotional. I loved Farm Kid especially when Zack talked about his friend that was a bit of a dare devil. This was one of the saddest books I have read or been read to. Issy Year 5

It is like losing a part of yourself. A sad, sad situation for any child like Zack. Adam Year 5

I think that Farm kid is a very moving and emotional book because they make jokes about bad things and the little one line sentences can tell a whole paragraph of a story. Louis Year 5

It hit a spot. It touched my heart. I am crying in my heart. Zacharey Year 5

Farm Kid is very emotional. Every poem gets sadder and sadder. Then finally they have to move. The first poem about the farm – I like the way it repeats ‘farm is’. It is funny at first but it doesn’t have a happy ending. At first I was a little shocked that it was actually the end. Julia Year 5

I'm planning to put all of the responses on my website because they are amazing. They are all different - they see different things in the story. Yes, it's sad (although it does have a hopeful ending) but for me it was always about telling a real story, not a Hollywood or Disney version. Thank you, kids, for all of your responses. That's why I love writing for children.


Lorraine said...

Would you say that these comments are from particularly intelligent children, Sherryl? Or from children who read a lot? They seem to be very advanced. I am interested in reading the other responses when you put them on your website. Children never cease to bring us into line and to surprise us with their appreciation of things. They educate us, too - a reversal of what we consider to be the norm. Are we adults, in fact, egotistical?

Sherryl said...

I think adults constantly under-estimate kids' intelligence! And their ability to grasp ideas and concepts in stories. I suspect that rather than egotistical, adults are dismissive! They think they know it all already. How many people do you know who dismiss new ideas (especially if they secretly don't understand them!)? Whereas kids will give anything a go and want to know more.

sheryl gwyther said...

What wonderful, insightful comments from those kids, Sherryl. It sure gives one hope in a future generation. If only all children were reading and enjoying it, too.

Sherryl said...

Sheryl, I'm really looking forward to visiting this school next week. I reckon they're going to have some great questions for me!