The reluctant shopper

Check out this lovely video created by Annick Press about books for reluctant readers. It features the 50 Questions series and Seeing Red.

The video points out all sorts of reluctant-reader appeal tactics, such as cartoons, graphic-novel panels, short chunks of text. All wonderful, helpful things. But I think there’s one additional key to attracting reluctant readers: don’t be the shopping mall.

I spent part of Family Day weekend in a shopping mall, and it was rather excruciating. Something about fluorescent lighting and off-gassing polyester turns my brain to mush. But the main problem is that we don’t go to the mall to get the best of any one thing. We go to browse a billion almost-the-same, basically decent things. The mall is a collection of everything and the best of nothing.

Likewise, many non-fiction books are collections of everything. Every fact the writer can find. But kids don’t want to sort through the racks, and they shouldn’t have to. They should be able to flip open an information book and find the strangest fact, the most interesting person, and the very best story.

For the rest, there’s always Wikipedia.

Or the mall.

Where Ideas Come From

One of the questions most commonly asked during my school presentations is: “where do you get your ideas?”

The answer is different for every book.

Some are easy. When Annick asked me to write a title in the True Stories from the Edge series, I asked Min what boys would want to read. He chose fires. And so, I wrote True Stories from the Edge: Fires!

I wrote The Blue Jean Book because my publisher called and she was so convinced that a book about blue jeans must be written, I agreed. Right there and then, on the phone. Somehow forgetting that I was really quite pregnant, and newborns and book editing don’t necessarily work well together.

Other idea origins are harder to pinpoint. I knew that somewhere between phone call one, when Annick asked for a middle-grade book about fire facts, and phone call two, when we disused concepts, I had arrived at the 50 Questions format.

What made me decide on 50 silly questions, with semi-serious answers?

This week, I decided it must have been my work environment. Because here are just a few of the questions my son has asked in the past seven days:

  • Are vampires real?
  • If God breathed on Adam to bring him to life, does He breathe on babies, too?
  • Why can’t you eat ear wax?
  • Wouldn’t it be good if we could all stay in the air like astronauts?
  • Have you ever eaten guts?

I’ve decided that it’s no surprise at all that my books ended up in question-and-answer format. The only surprise is that the questions aren’t even more wacky.