It’s research, not stalking.
I’m excited to bring you another Reader Paparazzi interview. Thanks so much for all your comments and suggestions on my first installment. If you missed it, check it out here.
Basically since I spend a lot of time inside the mind of fictional teens and tweens–writing and reading, I decided it might be nice to get a little perspective from the real world.
stalking interviewing young adult readers.
And this week I have what the publishing industry refers to as the reluctant (boy) reader.
But you can call him Ben.
Ben is a twelve-year-old middle schooler. He is on the Lacrosse team, plays the trombone in his school’s All City Band and he has the distinction of being the only kid I know who prefers dark chocolate over milk chocolate. Plus, as you will soon see, he loves skateboarding.
What is the last book you read?
Probably one of the Magic Tree House Series. I don’t read a lot for fun, but I do have all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books!
What are the top three songs playing on your iPod?
Skrillex: The First of the Year
Skrillex: Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
Kanye West: Dark Fantasy
What is your favorite class in school?
What is your favorite thing to do after school?
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life—what would it be?
That’s hard! I guess Chicken & Rice Soup.
If you could Skype with a famous person who would you pick?
(P-Rod,his nickname, is a professional skateboarder. I’m glad Ben filled me in on this fact, because the only Paul Rodriguez I know is a comedian–and turns out, happens to also be P-Rod’s father).
See how much you can learn in an interview?
So Ben, what was the last movie you saw?
Hunger Games! And I loved it.
Me too! What are you most looking forward to right now?
Sunday Skate Sessions at the skate park.
Ben lifting off the ground with an “ollie”.
While we’re on the subject of skateboarding, what did you think when you heard that a 12-year-old (Tom Schaar) landed skateboarding’s first ever 1080 spin?
Amazed! I thought it would be a pro!
So other than cool skateboarding tricks, what would you like to learn how to do?
Drive a Rally Car.
I have to say I’m feeling for your mom here a little Ben . . .
Okay one last question. If you could get on a plane right now and go anywhere—all expenses paid—where would you go?
Check back for more Reader Paparazzi interviews–or if you don’t want to miss a post, simply subscribe by email (above on the sidebar)!
Have any questions you’d love for me to ask young readers? Drop me a comment, I’d love to know! Or answer me this question:
If you could get on a plane right now and go anywhere—all expenses paid—where would you go?
Hook the reluctant reader.
But I am also familiar with the concept, not just as a writer, but as a mom.
Because I gave birth to not one, but two reluctant readers.
I love to read, always have, so of course my kids went to the library and story time every week. I read to them every day. Every birthday there was always a book along with whatever else they asked for and their shelves were filled with A Series of Unfortunate Events, Junie B. Jones and of course Harry Potter.
Still they didn’t always see books like I did—a companion, a gateway into another world, or simply pure entertainment. When they cried, I am bored! I pointed at their bookshelves and they shrugged.
They didn’t want to curl up with a book, not like I longed to do when I was a kid.
Oh sure, my son read every Harry Potter book, but it really was an exception.
My kids read, but sparingly.
So I turned into a book pusher.
Especially when it came to my son, because like I learned at the last SCBWI conference, agents are always looking for that elusive boy book. When they talk about their wish list, they get that faraway look, the one that makes me wonder if they see it as some sparkly, unattainable unicorn.
So what will these boys read?
Well, when my son was in elementary school he read Captain Underpants, Andy Griffith’s Butt series and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. You get the idea. It had to be funny, outrageous, and weird if he was going to read it.
He was also drawn to the Guinness Book of World Records—every year he got the new edition. Again, I guess it was the funny, outrageous and weird.
I brought book after book home from the library, without much luck. Finally, when he was in middle school, I found a winner, Swim the Fly by Don Calame. He read it in record time, even passed it onto a friend (one who read even less than my son did). I read it too, because I needed to know what elixir seeped from Don Calame’s fingers and onto the page.
From the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW August 13, 2009:
“A raucous PG-13 comedy. Don Calame, a screenwriter, serves up jokes and gross-outs in the style of filmmakers like Judd Apatow… In the war between the sexes on the young adult bookshelves, “Swim the Fly” occupies the low ground of offensive, knuckleheaded fun. Which is to say, boys will probably love it. This one did.”
The magical elixir was humor, the kind your parents often shush you for, so I got the appeal. After that, I searched for books about young teen boys who crush on the girl but don’t have a clue how to talk to her, resulting in funny hijinks.
Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won the Girl by D.L. Garfinkle
Carter Finally Gets it by Brent Crawford
King of the Screwups by K.L. Going
Some delved into deeper territory and yet he still read:
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson and books by Chris Crutcher.
Then my son started high school. I told him about John Green’s Paper Towns. It had a lot of the key elements, the out of reach girl, the friendships, the adventure, it was a bit more sophisticated than Swim the Fly, a little more thoughtful, but still I thought it was great and there were parts where I laughed out loud.
So he bought the book, but he still hasn’t read it.
Really, it’s not the book. I think he would’ve read it two years ago. After all he bought it based on the book’s blurb and what I told him about it. It was just that now that he’s in high school, there’s too much to compete with—homework and the books he has to read for English (by the way he did “like” Fahrenheit 451, but he is cursing Hamlet), the internet, video games, hanging out with his friends, cross country practice, piano practice.
Is he too busy or is it a serious case of Reluctant Reader? If a new Harry Potter book came out right now, would it *gasp* languish unread? I don’t know. I imagine (and hope) he will eventually find his way back to reading for fun.
This week I asked him, “If you wanted to read, what would you look for?” The answer wasn’t so mysterious–male protagonist, a crush (even if it doesn’t play a prominent role) and some adventure or issue. Interestingly he said the book no longer has to be funny. Or feature Quidditch or gas.
There are so many books I would recommend to him, if only he wanted to read:
OKAY FOR NOW BY Gary D. Schmidt, READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline and TRAPPED by Michael Northrup are just a few.
So maybe you can pass these gems on to a younger reader (or less reluctant one), because I can’t stop with the book pushing. I am already on the hunt for something a little older for my son.
Because as Mary Kole pointed out– kids read up. A book’s audience will often be a couple of years younger than the protagonist (or decades older in my own case).
I keep thinking about Harry Potter standing on platform 9 ½ at the end of the last book, all grown up. Like HP, kids grow up.
But thankfully like HP, there is the next generation standing on the platform ready for the world, or the next great book.
So keep pushing and writing great books!
What magical books do you push? If you write for kids, do think about the reluctant reader?
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Have a great week!