Every day watching my 8-year-old enjoy her summer vacation is like looking in a time-traveling mirror at my own childhood self. This girl loves to read. I’m pretty sure she would spend the entire day curled up with a book if I didn’t force her to actually do some essential things such as, you know, eating, drinking, and going to the beach.
However...Lu is extremely choosy about her books. She was kind enough to share with me her criteria for giving a book her complete attention, so I thought I’d share with all of you early MG writers out there.
1. “The beginning has to be exciting or interesting.”
Action beginnings won’t necessarily meet this criteria. The books Lu loves begin with interesting characters and, in most cases, intrigue. She doesn’t like ones that start with tons of action but no character development. And, unlike me, she will rarely give a book a chance past the first ten pages. (Examples of ones with beginnings she loved: The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Lost Track of Time, The Magic Half, The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency.)
2. “The story should be magical and different than my life.”
Lu is instantly drawn towards fantasy stories. Exploring the worlds of fairies and elves and time travel and fulfilled wishes instantly captivates her. (Examples--besides those listed above: The Chronicles of Narnia, Half Magic and the other books in this series, Zita the Spacegirl, Peter Pan in Scarlet, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.)
On the flip side of that coin: 3. “The story should be like my life, not magical.”
While fantasy is at the top of Lu’s list, she has a deep love for the few books that really speak to her life and make her identify with a main character. At this age, she is NOT into reading about real world characters unless she can identify with them right away. (Examples: The Penderwicks, Little House on the Prairie--which is more like our life than one might think, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Bobbsey Twins, All-of-a-Kind Family, The Secret Garden.)
4. “It should be funny.”
Enough said, right? (Examples: Calvin and Hobbes, Buster Bear’s Twins, 101 Dalmations, Beezus and Ramona, Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg.)
5. And her general word of advice: “All books should be funny, mysterious, or magical.”