The Gift of Writing for Kids—Bruce Coville Book Giveaway

So, this past weekend, I headed up to Sacramento for the SCBWI Spring Spirit conference. Which ROCKED. I may do another post this week telling more about it, along with perhaps a few car photos from my research trip, but what I wanted to talk about this morning was Bruce Coville‘s talk. Or part of it.

The part where he talked about why we write for kids. (Hint: It’s not the money.)

Slight detour first. I am very clear, personally, on why I write for kids and teens. Yes, I hope that they’ll read and love my books; yes, I think about them as the audience while I’m writing; yes, I try and figure out the best way to make my story connect with their world. But the full truth is that I do this writing…for me. I write because I need to, because I love the way it feels when words come off my fingers onto the keyboard. I write specifically for kids and teens because those are my favorite books to read, because the “club” I most want to belong to is the one whose members are the authors whose books I devoured as a kid. I admit it–I write for very selfish reasons.

I hear so many people talk about the book that most impacted them, the book where they first recognized themselves or the one that changed the way they saw the world. Honestly, I don’t have one of those. Every book that has hit me strongly as a child, as a teen, as an adult has hit me as an author. As in, WOW–look at the characters this writer created. Look at the way they built that world. Look at how they made me cry. Look at the flow of the prose. The books that are listed in my head as the most important are the ones that just made me–even more than before–want to be a writer. While I may have loved their content, the content is not what hit my life–it was and has always been about the writing.

But Bruce said something in his keynote that made me start thinking. And the basic thread is one we’ve all heard before, but it struck a chord for me Saturday. He basically created a picture, onstage in front of us, of The Kid who has just discovered reading. The one who has found THE BOOK (whether it be about content or prose) that, for him or her, has just opened up an entirely new world–the world of stories on a page. I don’t remember what that book was for me. The story goes that my big sister came home from first grade. played School with me, and taught me to read. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that my favorite thing in the world was to curl up with a book. I don’t remember the magic of discovering that feeling.

I do, though, know what that magic looks like on the face of another child. I know what it looked like on my son’s face; I know what it looked like on the faces of his young schoolmates, and I know what it looks like on the face of the boy or girl sitting on the floor of the bookstore or library, oblivious to everything that is going on around them.

I’m writing a picture book. I’m not sure whether or not a picture book can, by itself, create this magic–because they are so often part of cuddling with Mom and Dad, a grandparent, a teacher, an older sibling, a babysitter. I’m not sure whether or not this magic can be created with anyone else there, or if it is a simple, pure communion between a child and the book (and, yes, I think an e-reader qualifies!). What I think may be true is that there is an age-range, or reading-range, where the magic happens, and that it does fall somewhere between picture books and MG novels. Between the time the child starts to love stories and the time when they have already become book addicts and are now adding books and hours to their habit. I’m not sure if/when I will write a story that falls into that range, but I think–after this conference–that it must be a goal to think about.

I don’t know if Bruce Coville was the one who created that magic for my son. It may have been Bill Watterson, because the first time my son asked if he could read in bed before turning out the light, it was so he could lie there and “read” Calvin and Hobbes by himself. It may have been Roald Dahl. It may have been any one of the authors he loved when he was young. What I do know, and remember, is the click I heard in his reading world when he found Bruce Coville’s books. These were some of the first books I got him that were by an author I hadn’t read, didn’t know about. They were if not the first, some of the first, science-fiction stories he read. They were some of the first books that I picked up to read to myself, because my son loved them so much. My son’s favorites, and mine, were the Sixth-Grade Alien series, with Tim and Pleskitt as best friends. And then, of course, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, because…hey, it had a dragon. And a disappearing magic shop. And lots more.

They didn’t have any of the Pleskitt books at the conference bookstore. They did have another favoriteThe Monster’s Ring, which I think has the (very brief) scariest moment I remember reading in any of Bruce Coville’s book. I bought a copy, and I asked Mr. Coville to sign it (with, I hope, a minimum of gushing). And I’m giving that book away here.

I’d like to give it away to someone with a child, or who knows a child, that hasn’t read Coville’s books yet. I’d like to send this book off somewhere to a boy or girl who might not yet have fallen in love with books, or not yet found their stories. I’m not going to ask any of you to pass a test for the giveaway, or prove that you know the perfect recipient. If you just love these books yourself and absolutely need a copy, then go for it. If your son or daughter had this book and something happened to it, or they just can’t speak at the thought of having a copy with Bruce Coville’s signature on it, I totally get that, and they should get a chance to have that! But if you think around your world, and you know a kid who needs to find their book, who wants to love reading but hasn’t quite got there yet, then–please–enter. I want this giveaway to send a little bit of that magic into the world.

So…all you have to do to enter the contest is leave a comment below. But if you’ve got a story to share about your book, the one that grabbed you as a child and made you a reader, or the one that did that for one of your own kids, a student, whoever–I’d love to hear that, too.

I’ll run this contest for a week, and I’ll draw one random winner next Monday, April 11th. Feel free to spread the word!

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19 thoughts on “The Gift of Writing for Kids—Bruce Coville Book Giveaway

  1. great post. Seeing Bruce Coville must have been so exciting. I remember him from my own childhood and reading the 6th grade alien books which were wonderful to me. I always love hearing about people talk about their love for writing kids. It helps quiet those naysayers that don’t respect kidlit as valuable literature.

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  2. Gretchen Larese says:

    The first book that I ever remember reading was Nancy’s Mysterious Letter, the eighth in the Nancy Drew series. My parents would take us to the book store at least twice a month on a Friday night, and we were each allowed to buy one book. This is the first chapter book that I remember reading. After that, I was hooked and wanted to read all of them. My mom put an ad in the paper offering to purchase Nancy Drew books. I remember going to people’s homes and buying what they had for 25-50 cents each. I still have them, over 50 of them, and I have read each of them at least twice.

    I teach middle school Language Arts now, and I have a variety of books on my shelves with the hope that something will inspire a student to pick it up and read it.

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  3. Enjoyed this post, Becky. Please enter me into your contest. If I win, after I read the book I’ll give it to one of the 7 kids who come weekly to a tutoring program which I founded. We make library trips part of our “events” and every year they know that at Christmas and at summertime their gift from me (via the church who sponsors us) will be books. I like to think I have encouraged the love of reading which mentioned here.

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    • beckylevine says:

      You’re entered, Carol. I love the idea that you take the kids to the library AND their summer gifts. Sounds wonderful. 🙂

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  4. I loved hearing about this, Becky.

    My kids are all big readers already (though I don’t think we own any of Bruce Coville’s books), so are probably not the recipients you’re looking for. I would love to donate the book to my school library, and hope that the librarian/teachers would get it into the hands of a reluctant reader.

    Hope to hear more about the conference in the days ahead!

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    • beckylevine says:

      I don’t know, Amanda. If they haven’t read Bruce Coville, you might need to win this for your own kids! Maybe they can read it and THEN donate it to the library? 🙂 Either way, you’re entered!

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  5. Katherine A says:

    Enid Blyton was my hero when I was growing up. Famous Five, Mallory Towers etc – I read the lot. I would love to read this one.

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    • beckylevine says:

      I read the Famous Five books, too. My mom grew up in England, so she introduced us to them. Timmy was my favorite. 🙂

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  6. I’d love to win a signed copy of The Monster’s Ring. Both of my daughters loved Jeremy Hatcher but haven’t read this one (and neither have I) so that would be exciting.

    As for a book, I have a student who every week can not pick a book to read and when he does he usually brings it back the next week saying he didn’t get past the first chapter . . . well, I recommended The Tale of Despereaux to him and he reluctantly took it. Well, last week, he renewed it! YAY!!!!! That’s what my job is all about.

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    • beckylevine says:

      I actually think this one is a bit better than Jeremy Hatcher, so your girls might love it!

      And I love your story about that boy. You just changed things for him!

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