Letters from Readers

Some of Elaine Forrestal’s readers, across all of the age-groups, dressing up as her book characters.

Few things are more rewarding for a children’s author than direct feedback from their readers. Young readers are so uninhibited that their feedback is particularly vital. They are not afraid to tell me if my books, or short stories, have not met their expectations. They can always pinpoint exactly the parts they like best – and they ask very pertinent questions about why I have made a character speak or act in the way I have. So when they do say good things about my books I feel really chuffed.

In these days of shrinking funds for schools, libraries and the arts in general, it is becoming more difficult for some schools to invite a real author or illustrator to visit – or to transport the class to a local Library where the author is speaking. Writing a letter to an author, whose books they have read, is an alternative way to highlight Children’s Book Week.

I was thrilled, just after Book Week, to receive twenty five of these letters from students who have been reading Graffiti on the Fence, Deep Water, and Someone Like Me. It was refreshing to read their comments, all individual, and their questions which were thoughtful and challenging. I also received invitations to visit their class and have cups of tea. As I read these beautifully written letters I began to wonder about the cups of tea and to speculate, since they didn’t yet know me personally, about why I wasn’t being offered coffee as an alternative. However, in one letter close to the bottom of the bundle, all was revealed. One of these very perceptive students said, ‘… and the part I liked best was when Lallie and the kids were making plans to set up an ambush to discover who was responsible for trashing Lallie’s garden. Lallie says, ‘What we need is a battle plan – and a cup of tea.’

I wrote back immediately and accepted the offer. Of course I am Lallie. I gave her my voice in the story.

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