Let Them Lead The Way
Featuring Children’s and YA Books.
Anne Coates was moderating/interviewing Sharna Jackson, Sarah Todd Taylor and Nicki Thornton.
Anne Coates writes for both children and adults. I had heard of her adult books and she certainly gets good reviews, so it was interesting to hear she writes books about children. Anne Coates skillfully opened up conversations to cover many subjects surrounding children’s books, from about the books themselves to age banding to tips.
Anne Coates Sharna Jackson Nicki Thornton Sarah Todd Taylor
About the Books
Sarah’s passion for cats and theatres really came across so well and she has clearly studied cats a lot to come up with ideas for her books, that sounded so intriguing. She’s even come to learn that cats have different purrs for different occasions. The detective in her stories is indeed a cat called Max. Her book – Max the Detective Cat – The Disappearing Diva is set in a theatre. She talked about wanting to reflect the reality of how things and people aren’t always how they seem. I reckon it sounded like it could certainly feed children’s curiosity. Theatres can of course be interesting places with all manner of nooks and crannies and all sorts of people and especially actors taking on the guise of someone different for a couple of hours or so.
Nicki also has a cat as her detective, called Nightshade, who speaks English. The book is based in a hotel and she mixes criminal activity with magic and in her book, but managing not to go too far into fantasy. The mix of crime and fantasy sounds fun. It sounded like there was some humour to be found in it too.
Sharna is a director at Site Gallery. She has also written her debut novel – The High Rise Mystery, set on an estate in skinny towers, based on brutalist design. It was interesting to hear that she actually talked to an architect about this and how she didn’t want to stereotype her characters.
There was an interesting discussion about the interactivity that can be gained within stories, somewhat a different angle, which really got my attention. I myself like this too. It doesn’t seem to matter what you’re reading to someone, there’s always ways to interact, whether it is through some repetition or discussion or other involvement. It was mentioned how reluctant readers have got into the authors books and how there is something very universal about crime books. It was useful to hear how crime books for children can actually empower them as they try to find the clues to solve the mystery, alongside the protagonist to see how far they can go in being a detective too as they read.
There was much discussion about crime for children’s books and this was really interesting, since any criminal activity is obviously quite dark, but the discussion resulted in that there can be motives and it can be written in a way children can understand.
It was great to hear authors talking about age indicators when it comes to crime, such as books now being Middle Grade, YA etc. The discussion brought many interesting elements such as parents wanting guidance, but authors do reckon that children are well equipped to deal with death. This went further into stating that it’s the way things are written and the fact there are resolutions at the end can bring comfort to children, even when characters have been through a lot. It was mentioned that these stories can bring some elements of learning for children. It was decided that sometimes some subjects are more suitable for YA than for younger children.
There was a nice mention of librarians in that the authors mentioned that librarians can work out which books are the best “fit” for individual children, which I must say is a skill.
The authors talked about what they have heard children say. They talked about how author events help children to discover books. They said children have said how involved they become in stories and want to inhabit the story’s world using their imaginations.
Tips when writing a children’s story
- Read a lot and learn from other writers.
- Don’t feel the need to dumb down.
- Remember there really are hundreds of good story books for children, despite there being a thought by some that there may not be enough good books.
- Got to make sure children can follow your book, so there are perhaps red herrings, but the plot needs to be clearer for children. There is a fine line between clues and understanding and comfort in resolutions in the end, even though characters can be put through a lot.What the Authors Liked to Read
The books these authors have enjoyed are – Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie’s books and Choose Your Own Adventure. I myself have read these books and to choose your own adventure means you can go on many adventures and also have different endings each time.Latest Books and Books Being Discussed
Sharna Jackson Sarah Todd Taylor Nicki Thornton
Sarah Todd Taylor Nicki Thornton
Anne Coates was holding one of her adult crime books
With thanks to the authors for allowing me to take their picture. It was nice to meet the authors and I would recommend checking them out.