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  • Writer's pictureNancy Strom

The Books That Kids Want To Read

When I decided to write my first children’s book, I knew I needed to think about WHY children want to be read to, and WHAT they would want to read for themselves. I thought back to the first stories I read as well as those that were read to me, and the first one that came to mind was ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. I remember that I eventually knew the story by heart. I read the book so many times for myself that I soon found myself reciting the words to myself. I was four years old. Seventy years after the fact I still remember most of it. And this realization floored me! Why, after all these years, could I still remember, almost word for word, the story? And then I knew the answer – because it was written in rhyme. As this light bulb came on in my head I knew that in addition to anything else that might be in the book, my story would be written in rhyme.

The signposts had been there my whole life - I dabbled in writing poetry in college; I have always loved to make up my own words to familiar melodies - and have done this for years for friend’s and relative’s birthdays, welcome to the (neighbor)hood parties; special events – and just for the fun of it. I even wrote new words to the tune of “We’re Off to See the Wizard” from Wizard of Oz, for my grandnieces, when we were going up to Whidbey Island to visit my mother-in-law, who had a beach house there. Her garden was a thing of wonder for kids, complete with gargoyles, a totem pole, birdhouses, and a playhouse where the kids would have tea parties. And Puget Sound was just down some steps that my husband and I had built to get to the beach, where at low tide we could walk out to Baby Island. The song was entitled “We’re Off to Baby Island” – and some of the words were “there’s crabs, and clams, and seagulls there – and great bald eagles fill the air”and so on. And I had written poems for birthday and thank you cards, when I didn’t have a store-bought one handy. Why, I had been rhyming all my life just for the fun of it. And now I was going to use that love of rhyme for my children’s book. The first two lines became -

“Murphy was a hedgehog who resided in a glade.

He played dodgeball, darts and checkers, and liked toast with marmalade.

I proceeded to start thinking about my story. As I thought back to the favorite stories of my youth, the one that most often came to mind was The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Graham. I loved that story when I first read it, and I love it today. And I loved it because of the characters whose stories he was telling. I will always remember Ratty saying “there is absolutely nothing better than simply messing about in boats”, or words to that effect. Ratty and Moley will forever be my friends. So my story would have to have animals as the main characters.

So now I knew the two main ingredients for my book were going to be 1) an animal story, and 2) a story written in rhyme. And what else did I know? I knew my animals needed to have some kind of adventure. Ok – now I was getting somewhere. Ideas started whirling around in my head. And armed with just these three ingredients – A story, written in rhyme, where animals go on an adventure, was about to begin. It was about to come to life. As I started to write, and my story unfolded, I found that it soon took on a life of its own. My characters were having an adventure – and I loved going along for the ride.

Please join me now and get to know the characters in my book,

They march before my eyes as I remember how they look.

There’s Scooter, who’s a red fox pup, always coming up with schemes.

And a hedgehog, who is Murphy, by her side from field to stream.

Betsy is their beaver pal, and Bandit - a raccoon,

And together they are four good friends -you’ll learn this too, real soon.

You’ll meet them all - you’ll see them – in the portrait gallery first,

And from there you’ll join their journey – for their adventure you will thirst.

I hope my story, written in rhyme, with Scooter and her friends, will be one that children will want to read, over and over again.

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