It’s a gift to be able to write for children. It’s really impressive, though, to be able to write in an authentic child voice: to represent the conversations, behaviors, and internal monologues with developmentally-appropriate actions, thoughts, and dialogue. A few authors and characters spring to mind as exceptional examples, including Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Kevin Henkes’s Billy Miller.
They have some company with Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Julia Marks. Sloan impressively nails both a solid kid-friendly plot line and authentic voice and actions in Short.
Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan
It’s summer vacation, and Julia’s brother wants to audition for the local summer play. She does not. Julia has far more important things to do this summer, like writing letters to her friends and mourning her dog Ramon’s death. But she tags along to the audition, reads for a part, and is surprised to learn that she’s cast in the production of The Wizard of Oz…as a Munchkin. This is a sore point, as she’s shorter-than-average and a bit sensitive about it. Following through in the role – with the support of fellow cast members and little adults – Julia learns what commitment means as she discovers the strength of community, both on stage and in her town. By getting out of her comfort zone, she starts daydreaming less and doing more – both in the play and in the real world.
Sloan has crafted Julia’s world with a deft hand: it can be scattered at times as Julia flits from one thought to another. However, this is what makes Short exceptional: it is all-kid. What child doesn’t jump from one idea to the next? Consider this passage:
Julia’s loss of her dog is a big part of who she is – Ramon is woven through the narrative – and her flitting thoughts about his smell, collar and the carving are as authentic as Ramona cracking an egg on her head or Billy’s fear of performing poetry stage. High praise, there.
Share with ages 8-12. Highly recommended, especially for teachers looking for a read-aloud with strong voice.
Short released January 31, 2017. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for an advance copy.
Cheers, y’all! –arika