Tea with a Young Reader

Yesterday  morning, I got an email from my friend Cheryl, who lives up the road from us. Her granddaughter Iris is visiting, and they had had a conversation about my YA fantasy novel Maya and the Book of Everything. Cheryl had gotten Iris the book for Christmas, and Iris really enjoyed the novel.  Cheryl wondered if she and Iris could come for a visit.

Yes, yes, and yes! As it turned out, Sam—Iris’s dad and Cheryl’s son—came, too, and what a delightful time Clif and I had talking with the three of them, book lovers all. We chatted a bit about Maya and the Book of Everything. Cheryl wondered where my ideas came from. I couldn’t give her much help on that one. Somehow, the ideas just come.  Iris hoped that Andy and Maya would eventually wind up together. (I gave her the answer, but you, dear readers, will have to wait and read Library Lost to discover  Andy’s and Maya’s fate.) Sam wondered how long it took me to write the book. My answer: About a year, but there was a lot of editing and tinkering with the story after that.

Then the conversation turned to other books.  Iris told me what she was reading, and as I knew I wouldn’t remember—oh, the aging memory!—I jotted them down. When I’m through with the current batch I’ve borrowed from the library, I’ll request Iris’s recommendations through interlibrary loan. The list includes the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan and the Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale.

When asked what I was reading, I replied, “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.” This slice-of-life novel centers on a young girl—the Calpurnia of the title—who lives in Texas in the late 1800s. She’s a budding naturalist at a time when young women aren’t supposed to be interested in such things. But Calpurnia has an ally in her grandfather, an amateur naturalist who teaches her how to look, draw, record, measure, and do research. Calpurnia is a spunky, satisfying heroine, but the pace of the novel is deliberate, and I was wondering how young readers would like it.

Today, I found out. It seems that Iris has also read Calpurnia Tate. She liked it very much, and this caused me to have an epiphany, of sorts. That is, young people who love books are patient readers, and it’s a mistake to think they need an explosion a minute to keep them interested.  It’s not that plot and narrative flow aren’t important, but well-developed characters are what keep young people interested in a story. If a novel’s pace is leisurely, then that’s perfectly fine as long as the characters are interesting.

So, all in all a terrific day. Tea with a wonderful, bright family and insight into the patience young people bring to reading books.

You might even call it a finest kind of day.

Iris and me


18 thoughts on “Tea with a Young Reader”

  1. I do believe that readers are my favorite kind of people. No wonder you all got along so well. Love the reading lists. I have def. heard of Percy Jackson in previous years from my (Now college age) twins.

  2. That’s so nice being able to get together with readers of any age! I am on a binge of rereading Madeleine L’Engle’s novels right now. I agree that plot is very important, but you have to love the characters keep reading!

    1. You bet! Years ago, I went on a Madeleine L’Engle binge. One of my favorite writers, and I was lucky enough to hear her speak when she came to Portland.

  3. What an interesting post, Laurie. I think if the book grips the reader in some way, they will give the story the time to unfold at its natural pace. Glad that Iris enjoyed Maya, and it’s nice to meet her and Cheryl here. Best wishes for book 2!

    1. I had never thought of young readers as being patient with a story, but I now think they are, in their own way. If the characters take hold of them.

  4. Who knows, you may have inspired Iris to write herself someday. My 10-year-old granddaughter devours the Percy Jackson books. I will be giving her a copy of Maya and the Book of Everything when she comes up for a visit in May.

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