Friday, August 1, 2008

The 'If I Had a Hammer' Statuette

for the Lesson You're Going to Learn Whether You Like It or Not goes to:
Meet Lucy O’Neal, a spunky eight-year-old who wants some variety in her mom’s weekly menu plan. After banishing Lucy from the kitchen, Mom begins to experiment with new-flavored recipes. All is well until Lucy announces she doesn't want something different every night of the week. In the end, Lucy apologizes and learns to express a few compliments to Mom once in awhile--because the truth is she can't imagine what in the world she would do without her. What’s For Dinner, Mom? is a 806 word story picture book.
This might have been interesting enough to request if it weren't for the lesson at the end. Who's this book really serving— kids... or moms?
The last thing a kid like Mason wants is to be some kind of hero. So when a top secret transmission pops up on the screen of his video game drafting him and his brother Joel as secret Eco-naut agents, he's just a teensy bit freaked. But Joel figures the message is just part of the very cool, very life-like video game and he convinces Mason to sign up. Besides, even if Eco-naut is the real deal it’s not like they would expect a couple of kids to do anything dangerous....would they?
Again, the premise without the lesson sounds like it could work. But "Eco-nauts"?
Having a message is fine. Making it impossible to ignore is not. Your readers have minds of their own. Respect that.


Anonymous said...

I am the one who wrote the Lucy pitch. I am a new writer and just finished a writing course through the Institute of Children's Lit. One thing I am trying to figure out is how to have a character grow and have there be a "take-away" for the reader --something that the writing course talked a lot about, and yet not being overly preachy--or hitting my audience with a hammer. I am trying to determine if the problem is in my story or in my pitch. I would appreciate any insights all of your veteren writers and editors have. Thanks.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Try thinking of it from Lucy's POV. If you were Lucy, what would really be in your mind? This reads more like an adult pretending to be a child rather than an actual child's thoughts. I think it may be your word choice that conveys this more than what you're actually saying.

Don't worry about the school thing. That mold they squeezed you into will break eventually and you'll find your own voice.