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Beyond Expectations

Posted by Susan Stoltz on


There are times when research is more a chore than a gift. When I was writing X-Ray Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures and Steve The Dung Beetle: On A Roll, the research was very academic. When writing for children, know your subject matter well enough that you can explain it to a child. This is not an easy task.

There are also times when research is a joy. That time, for me, is now. I’ve long wanted to venture from picture books into the genre of chapter books. Suffice to say, it’s been a long time since I’ve read a chapter book written for 9 – 11-year-olds. So, my research is taking me down a road I remember well, sitting at the table after school with a bowl of cereal and a book, and spending Saturday (after chores) reading all afternoon outside on the patio. Tell me; how many of you avid readers hid under the covers at night with a flashlight reading until the batteries wore out or you were caught in the act?

Well, I don’t hide under the covers any longer, although I look upon that memory with great fondness. But I am up at all hours of the night, thanks to two decades of insomnia, reading chapter books as “research.”

I must say I’m greatly impressed with the advances made over the past half a century (I should probably edit that last bit out) with the chapter book genre. I don’t remember the books I read at that age having so much sophistication both with plot as well as with vocabulary. If our middle school readers are engaging in books such as The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo we needn’t worry about this upcoming generation.

Though this book has many very dark moments, and there are many reviews from parents protesting this very fact, I read nothing worse than Disney’s Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty with evil, death, abuse, and wickedness. This book is redeeming in message and written with such skill that I was instantly thrilled. No wonder it’s a two-time Newbery Medal winner!

So dear Reader, as I delve further into the chapter book genre, I’ll let you know what I think of the future books in the queue. The bar has already been set way beyond my expectations!

PS: I don’t generally allow dogs on the table, but Dash knows when I’m occupied and leapt at exactly the right moment.


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