"Lola, I need a new book!" were the first words that Trista, a grandniece, said when I hugged her, not having seen her for over a year. "I have finished reading all the books you gave me!"
"Oh, I need to keep writing faster then," I said. "I have to keep pace with you."
Trista at 10 is a wide reader and a bundle of grace. She challenges children's book writers like me to keep writing, at a much faster speed, before she grows up and moves to chapter books. She reads faster than I can write; I wish all kids were like her.
"Look Lola!" Trista beamed as she held up a book (not one of mine) for me to see.
"Oh, the Beatles," I replied.
"No," she said, giggling. "Here, look closely," she continued.
I put on my glasses and the five boys on the book cover still looked like the Beatles in my fuzzy head. I know there have been many boy bands after it, but The Beatles was the boy band of my childhood and as I grew up and grew old, I got further and further away from identifying, much less caring, which bands are today's crazes.
"ID is One Direction," she explained patiently. She had caught on; now she was speaking like a teacher, as though giving tutorials to a little person younger than she was. Then she opened the pages of the book to show me more photos of the young Beatle-like boys who comprised the band.
"Oh, One Di-rect-ion," I read it per syllable so I won't forget.
"You really don't know who they are!" she said incredulously, reluctantly accepting the fact that she was talking to someone who was genuinely clueless about things she knew.
Thanks to google I finally found out about ID and the other boy bands who are populating the airwaves today and making listeners go gaga over their music.
Unknown to Trista, she actually made me look more closely into myself as a children's book writer and pinpointed two workable action points:
1) Make it my business and seize every opportunity to know where my young readers are—from toys, to fashion, to music. I should not make advanced age an excuse for not being on the same wavelength.
2) Be on my toes to keep pace with the fastest readers of them before they outgrow me.
To truly communicate with children, a Christian author needs to walk with her readers in one direction, speaking the same language and grooving to the same music so she knows exactly where values can be shared.
Note to self: Go for One Direction, and be Forever Young (one of their hit songs).