I make it a point not to read reviews because my sanity is more important than my vanity. Good reviews are lovely, of course, but they don’t really add to my enthusiasm for writing. Bad reviews, on the other hand, can obliterate a myriad of good reviews like an asteroid wiping out 70% of life on Earth.
But while searching for something related to my book, I inadvertently came across a snippet of a review: “However, the difficulty of the language and the grade level of the text make it a bit out of reach for the average picture book reader.” I thought it was a valid comment and I want to address it specifically.
It’s true that the language could potentially make it out of reach for the average PB reader, but the average PB audience would not be reading this book (or most other books) on their own. A parent, teacher, librarian, or some other adult would be reading picture books to kids of that age. When an adult reads a book to a child, the adult will explain any new or difficult words. I recall my doing that when I read to my younger child.
Then, too, I have often heard, children are very smart and can guess the meaning of words they don’t know by the context.
But the main thing for me is that there is an oft repeated piece of writing advice which I have taken to heart since day 1: do not write for the general audience; write for someone specific. When you write for everyone, you write for no one.
When I write a story, I write most often for myself…me as a child, me as an adult. For this story, I also wrote with my older child in mind. This kid taught himself to read by the age of 2 and by age 3, he was reading adult reference books (he had “The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Disease and Insect Control” mostly memorized by the time he was three and a half). A book like this would have not proven to be a challenge for him.
Someone else writing this story might have wanted to simplify things, but in my opinion, that would have served a smaller and limited audience. I believe that whatever the fault people believe lies with my story, it is one that can be read on many levels: as a basic biography for the youngest kids that touches a bit on nuclear physics, as a reference for older kids doing research on an extraordinary woman, and as inspiration for kids of any age as to what can be achieved despite tremendous odds against them.