The chapter book/middle-grade chasm

Have I mentioned that my daughter and I are Annie Barrows fans? Oh, I have? About six thousand times, you say?

Well, I read The Magic Half this week. (After my daughter finished it, you’ll be pleased to know. Min has taught me that sneaking a book while its reader is asleep, devouring it, and replacing it before morning is considered impolite in some circles.)

The Magic Half was lovely and my daughter liked it even more than the Ivy and Bean books. It took her longer to read, she said, and was just a tiny bit more scary.

And right there, she hit upon a problem when one is transitioning between chapter books and middle grade novels. Some are just too darn scary, and there’s really no way to know which is which in advance. Disappeared mothers, exploding harbours, dying dolphins — all of these lie in wait. Every once in a while, I go to kiss my daughter goodnight and find her sniffly or wide-eyed and not knowing whether to stop reading, and never know the ending, or continue with something too scary.

Really, we need a whole new shelf of in-between books, all stamped with “safe for innocents.” And The Magic Half, while it does have a seriously creepy villain, will fit right in.

If I had a dog, he would have eaten my homework this week

Whew. I’ve been slacking on the blog, but I have a plethora of good excuses.

First, thanks to my daughter’s playground fall, I’ve spend a total of eight hours in the Children’s Hospital ER in the past week. We went from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. one night while they decided whether her elbow was broken (yes) and whether to do surgery (no). Then we went back a few days later from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. while they put on a cast. Good times.

Along with learning about elbow bones, I learned that anyone in need of a little drama should hang out in the ER. There were crying babies and crying moms and twisted ankles and severe fevers and everything in between.

That’s only my first excuse.

Second one: I went with my daughter and her newly plastered arm to see Annie Barrows on Tuesday night. She’s the author of the Ivy and Bean books (which my daughter loves) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (which I love).

I always enjoy hearing how other writers work. According to Annie, it takes six months to write an Ivy and Bean book. The first draft takes a month, then she puts it away for a couple weeks. Then she rewrites, and puts it away for a couple weeks. Then she might rewrite again. When she’s finished, she sends it to her editor… then rewrites again. She said one book took nine rewrites.

Nine rewrites to create a chapter book. Yikes! But there must have been a hundred little girls lined up for her autograph. If that doesn’t inspire you to rewrite, what would?

She also mentioned that she’s not working on a children’s book at this exact moment, because there’s a new grown-up book in progress. This made me happy and my daughter unhappy.

I have a third excuse.

Has anyone else noticed how long this blog past has become, though? I think I’ll make my next excuse tomorrow. Because if one can combine excuses with procrastination… well, isn’t that the secret to the whole writing life?

Fan mail

After receiving bookmarks in the mail from Irene Watts last week, my daughter decided more fan letters were in order. This is what she sent off to Annie Barrows. I’m particularly in love with the paragraph structure, personally.

Dear Annie Barrows.
I love your Ivy and Bean books.
My favourite character is Ivy.
I am just like her.
I love to read.
I love face paint.
And I always read big books.
At school I am writing a novel.
I am six years old.
I am from Vancouver Canada.

How old are you?
Why did you chose the names Ivy and Bean?