I love the way young minds cut to the chase.
I asked the kids to share three things they remember from your presentation. The responses always included:
- Writing drafts is a good thing.
- It takes a long time to finish a story to make it into a book.
- We can write with pencil or on a computer
- There aren’t any more typewriters.
- There are two Uma Krishnaswamis (I think that impressed them the most!)
The kids at SAS are used to visiting authors. They found it remarkably natural that a writer from around the world would come to speak to them. I also got the best travel advice. A second-grader asked me if I had jetlag. "A bit," I confessed. "Drink lots of water," she advised.
Speaking of cutting to the chase, when I read Out of the Way! Out of the Way! at the Global Indian International School (both at the East Coast campus and Balestier) two repetitive elements of the book lent great energy to the reading. One was the refrain of the title. The K-2 groups all joined me with enthusiasm in a chorus of "Out of the way! Out of the way!" every time we circled around to that point in the story. In general the younger the group, the harder it was to stop. I tried using two hands (as in one chorus per hand) and that sort of worked. I have to admit there were places where it was just necessary to let the group keep going and repeat the lines four or five times instead of two. Sort of like toddlers walking and unable to stop, we tottered on together, collapsing in heaps of laughter. The other lines that the kids began repeating, although I hadn't asked them to, were "from here to there...and back again..." I'd walk as I read, from here to there. In a couple of groups the kids walked their fingers on the ground where they sat. Children really do listen to stories with their whole bodies.
I asked them what the story was about. Here are some of the responses:
- Out of the way! Out of the way! (Sure, why not?)
- We like trees
- We must take care of trees
- Trees grow big like us
I ended up having way more time on my hands than I thought I would, so I told a few other stories, including a version of a story about a girl and some animals and a red ball that is currently a work in progress. No one's seen this manuscript yet--not editors, not critique group colleagues--so it was really nice to see that the children got the sense of cumulative story that I didn't even know I was after. So now I have a new technique to add to developing a picture book manuscript: trying it out as an oral tale to see if its energy carries from beginning to end.