Message-driven fiction for children is so much fun to write. Weaving a message into an entertaining story can be a challenge, but if you start with the character and base your lesson around his or her actions and reactions, then the story comes together nicely.
Take Robert from A Christmas Kindness: he’s a young boy eagerly awaiting his turn to sit on Santa’s lap so he can share a lengthy wish list. By chance, he meets Glenn, a boy around his own age, who has only one wish—a wish that, if fulfilled, would bring Glenn’s family immense joy.
Suddenly, Robert doesn’t know what to do.
When he finally sits on Santa’s lap he has to choose: share his wish list with Santa or ask him to bring his new friend a special gift. Young readers will feel the battle inside Robert as he decides whether or not he can perform a great kindness for a child he barely knows.
That is the important message I wanted to impart to my own children many years ago when this story was first written. Yes, I could have sat them down to talk about the spirit of the season or lectured them on thinking of others around the holidays, but wasn’t the message better—more powerful—coming from a young boy around their age that they could see struggle with making the right choice?
My children have inspired many story ideas. As they have grown, the ideas have changed. The stories I wish to write have been more complex. In addition to picture books and first chapter readers, I’ve entered into the world of middle grade fiction.
One thing will never change: I will always hope to impart a message that readers can take away, ponder, and hopefully, learn from.
A Christmas Kindness
Eight-year-old Robert is eager to share his wish list with Santa at the mall on Christmas Eve. When he meets Glenn, who has only one request for Santa, Robert is confused over what he should do. Can he cast aside what he wants and ask Santa to bring his new friend a special gift?
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Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer, children’s author, ghostwriter, and editor. Her children’s books include Little Shepherd (GAP, 2010) and A Christmas Kindness (4RV, 2012 & 2014). She is also a book reviewer and blogger. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married.
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