My 11yo daughter is home sick from school—which means I’m home from work—so I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk books with her. She started reading early, at about 2.5yo, and has continued to be an avid reader ever since. Most of you know that my day job is writing for video games but my extracurricular ambitions is writing fiction, especially Middle Grade books. That puts my daughter smack dab in my target audience. In order to get a better understanding of my ideal reader’s preferences and perspective, I figured I’d go right to the source.
Below is the complete text of our conversation.
Let’s start at the beginning, what first got you interested in reading?
I don’t know. I like to read.
What was the first book you remember really liking?
What was it you liked about Junie B. Jones?
I liked Junie B. Jones.
What about her?
She’s funny. And her friends are funny.
What’s your favorite book right now?
What do you like about it?
I like how, in the first book Because of Mr. Terupt, all the characters changed. Like Lexie was mean and then not and Peter was a troublemaker and then he became not a troublemaker and it’s all because of an event with Mr. Terupt. They all changed by the end of the book. I like how they have Mr. Terupt again as a teacher for Sixth Grade and how the characters, at the beginning, stay the same but then stuff happens to them that they weren’t expecting—I’m not going to spoil it though—and they change.
What makes you stop reading a book? Just putting it down for good?
If it’s boring and people keep talking about the same thing for two chapters.
What makes you pick up a book in the first place?
I read the back of it and I see if it’s good. Sometimes we read books in class. Like, in Fifth Grade we read books in class and that’s how I got into Because of Mr. Terupt. We listened to the audiobook.
What are you reading right now?
How do you like it?
What’s the best part of Third Grade Angels so far?
I’m not that far into the book.
Do you know who the author is?
Who wrote Because of Mr. Terupt?
I forgot that too!
You said you loved Junie B. Jones. Do you know who wrote it?
I used to.
Who is your favorite author?
Andrew Clements. I love him. I love his books.
What’s your favorite book he wrote?
If you wanted someone else to read The Report Card, how would you get them to check it out?
I would tell them how much I appreciated it. And that it seems like a good book for them to read.
Would you tell them anything about the story or characters or setting?
Well, it’s basically about this girl named Nora purposefully getting Ds for her friend Stephen and how much trouble she gets into and almost gets expelled. The whole mystery of the story is “Why would that help him?”
That’s what you’re telling me but would you say something like that to a friend?
Have you ever recommended a book to a friend?
Not to a friend but I have to family. I’ve recommended books to you. I recommended Babymouse to [a friend].
What did you say to your friend about Babymouse?
I forget. That was like a year ago.
Do you know if she read any of the books?
Yeah. Yeah, she did. She read all of them.
So she liked them?
She liked them. Yeah.
Do you have a preference when it comes to books with illustrations versus books that are just words?
Depends on the book with illustrations. And it depends on the books with just words. Books that are this thick [spreads her fingers about two inches apart], then no. And there are a lot of books like that. And some books with pictures [puts her fingers together really close] that I’m not into. Just depends on the book.
Do you have a preference when it comes to books with magic and stuff like that versus books that are more realistic?
I like fictional books. I’m not too keen on realistic fiction. There are some realistic fictions I really love like Because of Mr. Terupt and Mr. Terupt Falls Again.
Andrew Clements writes realistic fiction, right?
Yeah. It just depends on what the realistic fiction is about.
If you had a wish to create the perfect book for you, what would the book be about?
That’s a hard one. Can I just choose a genre?
It would probably be… [thinks for a bit]
Would it be set in the real world?
Um, yeah. Yeah, it would be. I have nothing against sci-fi though.
What age would the characters be?
They’d probably be about my age.
Would the main character be a boy or girl?
Oh man. Hm. It would probably be a girl.
Would this girl be special in any way?
We’ve talked before about how stories are about change. Would this girl change?
Um. Hm. Yeah.
How would she change?
Like, her attitude. And the way she handles things.
Would there be a bad guy or enemy?
No. Probably not.
So what would make this book so perfect for you?
Like, the problems and the reasons she has to change.
Do you prefer standalone books or ones that are parts of a series?
I like series book because then it gives you more of that character to read. One thing that kind of bothers me about Andrew Clements is that every book has a new character and you have to get used to a whole new character.
Have any of your friends recommended books to you?
Not that I can remember.
Do a lot of your friends read?
Do they ever bring their own books to school?
Not really. Not really, no.
How important are book covers to you?
I know they say not to judge a book by its cover but most people do so it kinda has to have a good cover or I might not read it.
So what makes a good cover to you?
If it has something to do with the story. Like in Because of Mr. Terupt, the cover has a picture of a guy holding a snowball. And that fits perfectly into the story. You wonder “What does that snowball have to do with this book?”
Where you find out about new books?
Usually at school.
But not from friends at school, right?
Yeah, but from like the school library. The library at [her former elementary school], the librarians told us about really good books. That’s where I found out about Wonder. We had a competition where we had to read as many of the prize books as we could and then we’d check off the books we read off a list.
How about bookstores?
Oh yeah. Yeah. School libraries, classrooms, and bookstores. And the public library.
Do you see yourself reading a lot when you grow older?
Probably, but not as much as Abraham Lincoln.