Archive for April, 2012

Risks and rewards of reading a new picture book out loud for the first time

I’m quite excited! My tenth book (ten books, in four years!) will be published this week. Orange Juice Peas is about a little girl called Jessie, her big brother Ben and a very messy teatime. And it has wonderful bright cheery pictures by Lizzie Wells.

Even though Orange Juice Peas isn’t in the shops yet (it should be available at the weekend) I already have a copy which I’ve sneakily read to a few groups of children.

Reading a new picture book out loud to children for the first time is a strange experience.  It’s not the same as reading a carefully selected cliffhanger extract from a novel to 9 year olds.  Reading a whole picture book to group of 5 year olds, especially for the first time, feels quite risky.  What if they won’t sit quiet and listen?  What if they get bored and wander off, or start picking their noses, or asking to go to the toilet, or poking the child sitting beside them?  What if they don’t like it?  (These are very small children, remember, and if they don’t like something they might not be polite about it!)

So I get quite nervous the first few times I read a picture book to an audience. It’s my first chance to see if the story works.  I do read a book out loud to myself when I’m drafting it, and to my own kids when I think it’s finished. But the book doesn’t feel real until I read it to kids I don’t know, to see what they think, to see how they react, and to find out the most important thing: will they laugh at the right bits?

I’m delighted to say that yes, the couple of times I’ve read Orange Juice Peas to kids – in Selkirk and in Falkirk – they have laughed. At the bits I hoped they’d find funny, and at other bits as well!

Also, some of them went “aww” at the right bit near the end too.  And some of them tried to count the peas on the pages where the editor, designer and I had spent hours checking the numbers of peas (so Sally and Helena, that was totally worthwhile!)

Now I am ready to take this book out into the world, because it seems to work. (Phew.) And that’s something you can never be sure of, whether it’s your first book, your third book, your tenth or your hundredth, until you actually know what the readers think of it!

Orange Juice Peas