Ok, Children’s Authors, you better read this

My god, book clubs are getting younger.

The teacher in my eight-year-old son’s class has also started one. So this past Monday I sat down with five opinionated and rather well read year threes.

The book?

Horrid Henry’s Holiday.

The concensus?

Thumbs down (Sorry Francesca Simon)

First off, they didn’t like the new version of the book with the glossy illustrations on every page. They preferred their black and white versions at home with more words, they claimed, and fewer pictures. Their pride, I could tell, had been offended. They also thought Henry’s haircut on the cover was too weird. (I’m just reporting here….)

But basically they felt it wasn’t interesting enough. They’d all been camping, they’d been to the same places, and really they’d had it with Henry. Same ol’ same ol’. Just a naughty boy being, well…naughty.

“He was annoying and dumb,” said one boy.

“I wanted more adventure!” shouted one boy, getting into the spirit of the argument.

“I liked it, said another boy bravely.

And the others shrugged

Really, it all reminded me of my own grown-up book club. Only without the red wine and gossip.

Half way through, through, I realized what a gold mine I had on my hands. I decided to use them as an impromptu research panel.

So, I leaned forward, keeping my voice down, not wanting to be caught:

Tell me. What do you want in a book?

One child, a bundle of energy, cried, “More adventure, more Martians, more dinosaurs. Different characters. More stuff! Pshu pshu!” His energy level alone could have propelled him to outer space.

“No more princesses or fairies,” one little girl said, rolling her eyes. “Princess kisses frog, prince appears, ho hum.”

“And no witches,” another added. “Everyone has witches, so done. Witches this, witches that.”

One girl preferred the realness of a Miley Cyrus TV show. You know, things that really happen.

But they all said, interestingly, that they lost interest if a movie had been made of a book. In fact, it should be the other way around, said one boy, they should make books of movies. “That way they can tell us stuff that didn’t happen in the movie.”

When I asked about whether they wanted the book to bring them somewhere emotionally they looked blank. No, they explained patiently, they want to go some place interesting they’d never been to before.

“Like Mars!” Mr. Energy shouted. “With purple headed dinosaurs and green toads!”

So I hope there aren’t a lot of children’s authors out there who have started books about princesses or witches who sit around and do things real kids do.

They might be in for a shock.

photo by beaufour (flickr)



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5 responses to “Ok, Children’s Authors, you better read this

  1. Linda

    Well done Nina. Hazel also has a book group at school, and although she and her friends read very sophisticated material these days, their sole goal seems to be to outread every other group in the class. I don’t know if they even discuss the book, they just want to rack up titles. Sounds like your year 3 kids are thinking about it more than the year 6’s!

  2. omg i am cowering. perhaps i should switch from writing to gardening. not sure i can take all this!

    can you attend a few more meetings? we need a mole.

  3. ninakillham

    Candy, do not switch! Put down that trowel. Right now. Back away from the garden. They are going to love Tall Story. Mark my words. And for heaven sakes, take off those wellies…..

  4. Sue Hyams

    What a good thing I’ve just finished my purple headed dinosaur epic where they have to overcome great evil to defeat the Martian green toads! Sounds like I’m onto a winner.

  5. ninakillham

    Excellent, Sue. I can’t wait to read it!

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