Recently, I have been reading the ‘Angels Academy’ series.
Now, I hear you ask, ‘What the heck are you doing, Jessica, reading a book written for eight to twelve year olds about time travelling angels? Are you a little too… old … for time travelling angels?’
There are different kinds of books, you see.
There are books that you read when you want a flash, bang novel for entertainment. Usually of the moment, usually something new or a book you haven’t broached before, and when they’re done you toss a shoulder and go ‘Yeah that wasn’t bad.’
Then there are those books that have somehow managed to burry themselves deep inside of your heart and fastened themselves to your memory.
It could be anything, that book you read when you went on that vacation, or that that random life experience or whatever.
I have quite a few of those. And do you know, I was thinking recently, that to write a book like that – that has fixed itself to a reader’s heard – it is a real privilege and a challenge I’d love to undertake.
The first I can recall was a series of stories called Milly Molly Mandy.
Little stories about a girl named Milly Molly Mandy who lives in a little town (which you can see the scope of in the pictures at the very front) who has adventures with her friends and family. They are feel good, cute and completely satisfying. I associate them with really lovely times sitting reading as a kid and they’re there, buried in my memories now.
Another is the Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald. My mother read this book to me when I was much younger and I super associated myself with Alvin’s sister ‘the Pest’ Mum would read my brother and I a chapter a night and they remind me of those special times being read to aloud that I want to recreate with my children – when I have them.
Another story is Treasures in the Snow, a Christmas story about a girl who’s brother (after an accident as a result of a boy who was a total bully) has a disabled leg, and the girl learns to forgive the bully who did it to her brother over Christmas and with wooden carved animals. Sorry if that sounds random, but my year 6 teacher read it to our class the last Christmas before she left our school, and it conjures up the best ever pictures in my mind. Also that teacher was wonderful and has since passed away so it reminds me of her and the way she supported my writing and imagination.
Naughtiest Girl In School, is another book which has hidden itself inside of my memory. I brought it when I was twelve, in Keri Keri (north of Auckland, a town up there… for those not New Zealanders) in a tiny, tiny bookstore. I was starting at my new school that year and was a little nervous. This book helped me understand that starting a new school is hard, but it’s super fun too.
Angels Academy is another book series that has anchored itself inside me rather nostalgically. I brought one volume when I was a lot younger and read it from start to back, but then one year thought… 1) what ever happened in the rest of that series? and 2) I want to make sure my kids have this story in the future. So I proceeded to buy the entire series… only thing was that I was 22 years old…
They arrived in the mail and over a drought stricken summer in Auckland that was the VERY best ever, sitting in the sun reading what happened to these characters I’d read about when I was like thirteen outside, on the deck, with my sunglasses over the summer holidays.
It was the best.
These stories don’t try and be anything but problem + solution = happy times and to be honest, I don’t exactly them to be.
They are sweet, innocent, and lovely, and have this way of tucking themselves away inside of our hearts. As an author I’d love to be able to write a book like this.
I think there are three keys from the books that I’ve mentioned.
- Create endearing characters, not complicated characters. I like character development and dark sides, and difficulty as much as the next person… but with light flurry special stories, these hardships need to be light and easy and work-out-able.
- Settings are CRUCIAL. The cute town, the school with it’s little odds and ends of detail, the academy where the angels go to learn about time travel, it is all important. Develop settings that give you a real feeling of homeliness and belonging and you will anchor your readers.
- Not too big. These stories need to be quick and easy to process. At most I’d say 150 pages, if not less. Quick, easy, fun and flighty, meaning that they get to the point quickly and you don’t go on this HUGE emotional journey
Anyway there it is. My favorite endearing stories, and how to write one.