Monday, February 27, 2006

The Children's Writer's Reference, by Berthe Amoss and Eric Suben

By Christina VanGinkel

My passion is writing for children and, because of this, I am always on the search for books about this field of writing, including any reference books that I can find. The Children's Writer's Reference, by Berthe Amoss and Eric Suben is a reference book that I picked up several years ago. Separated into eight chapters, each of the eight chapters are broke into very specific subjects on the craft of writing for children, including:

Children and Books
Age Groups and Formats
Thinking Visually

Each of these chapters is chock full of information that can help anyone interested in writing for children of various ages, better their skills and their final output.

Starting with the Children and Books chapter, which helps you envision who it is you are writing for, breaking down the age groups, physical appearances, clothing, what skills they possess at different ages, and much more. With all the information included, it is helpful to both determine what age group(s) you are writing for, and what age group(s) you are writing about.

The Ideas chapter is like your own personal answer to writer's block. It has list upon list of idea generators to get you motivated with topics that have been proven to work, difficult topics, educational topics, nonfiction topics, and even topics within these topics, so that you can never again say that, you cannot think of something to write. I personally go back to this chapter each time I am planning a new project and use it to build on any idea that I might be considering as a subject of interest.

The Age Groups and Formats touches on types of books such as novelty books, books for older readers, and series. Novelty books are actually discussed at length, with well-defined descriptions of bathtub books, flap books, pop up, gatefold, touch and feel books, etc., Novelty book packages are also reviewed, as to what goes into such a package, and what can be included.

The chapter on characters is filled with enough information that it could be a book all on its own. It has information on people, pets, fantasy characters including witches, and wizards, and looks at the often picked apart subject of anthropomorphic characters. It breaks apart each of these even further, looking at gender, age, and race. It gives a perspective on historical characters and mythological characters. If you are having trouble identifying the characters in your next work, read this chapter if you read no other, as it will leave you filled with ideas that are sure to lead to the perfect hero or villain of your next best seller!

The chapters on Setting and Plot are as thorough as the previous chapters in helping you define your story in your own way. This book does not so much tell you what to write, as it feeds your story with inspiration of how to make it work.

The chapter on Writing goes over much of the basics that anyone writing should already be aware of, yet it does it in such a way, that even those of us who thought we knew it all, will take away something learned.

Thinking Visually is the last chapter of this book, and again, holds enough information within its few pages, that it alone would be worth its weight as a book by itself. It provides a writer a different way of thinking through their story. Of helping them understand, how the few words in a children's book have to work even harder than the same words in an adult's book, because they have to speak in both the words they are, and in a visual manner. While many children's book also have the aid of illustrations to explain the plot, the writer still must work extra hard to carry off the visual aspect of his or her story though the words alone, or else the illustrator will not be able to successfully do their job.

If you want to add only one more reference book to your library on writing for children, make sure it is this book, so that you will always have available to you the wonderful information stored within its pages.

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