Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Writer's Wednesday
I'm hearing from a great many new writers who want to bring a stronger ethnic or cultural emphasis to the children's book market. It's wonderful to see the growing presence of culturally diverse characters. As a library media specialist, it is my goal to see every child represented in the collection. As a writer, I need to think carefully about how I'm crafting a book.

A successful story will be both universal and individual. What I mean by that is the theme is universal enough to appeal to readers of both genders and multiple social/cultural backgrounds and at the same time individual enough that each reader will identify personally with the character's trials and triumphs.

Here's a good example: Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding by Lenore Look. You might ask how a story that reveals, step by step, the details of a Chinese wedding is universal. Granted that the context of the story is a Chinese wedding, but the theme is about jealousy and the fear the little girl (the protagonist) has of losing her special relationship with her soon-to-be married favorite uncle. As a consequence, the appeal is quite broad. All of my students, boys and girls alike, enjoyed learning something about another culture, but all of them understood on a personal level what the story was really about and could identify with the main character's feelings.

I'm sure all of you can think of similar examples. If you can't, you need to visit your local library or bookstore and catch up on your reading. I'll talk more about child protagonists in my next Writers Wednesday post.

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