I understand you have lots of sons and are interested in how my young son and I collaborated on the Night Buddies stories. To put it somewhat loosely, he was the writer and I was the editor.
But let me start at the top:
I raised John as a single parent from the age of six. Bedtime stories were an essential to us, like food, air and shelter. It may be that we never missed a night for six or seven years, even on trips. I read him everything from Aesop to Tolkien and Dahl. (Harry Potter hadn’t come along yet.) By the time John was twelve we had gone through most of Dickens and Victor Hugo. So he was always immersed in stories. He’s a linguist now, and thirty-two and still likes hobbit movies.
The Night Buddies series features John and Crosley. John is a young kid pretty much like mine was, and Crosley is a bright-red crocodile. He sneaks John out of the house for adventures on nights when John isn’t ready to go to sleep.
John invented red Crosley from whole cloth. One night when I was done reading, I may have suggested he make up a night companion to go off to sleep with. Maybe I didn’t. He may have done it by himself. But in any case, before long, there was Crosley, goofy name and all. I couldn’t have come up with something like that.
So at bedtime we started batting Crosley stuff around. I encouraged John to make up episodes. I mostly listened. If he did come up with something, I told him how super it was and when could I hear the next installment? I think he was still six. He got pretty facile, and I had visions of him becoming a writer. After a year or so, John tired of the game and went back to listening mode. But by then Crosley had become such a family member that he would pop up in conversation for years. Our friends even knew about him and asked about him. He was too real to fade away.
With me anyway. I started wondering about how I might write him and John up. The puzzle was Crosley. A kid with a talking animal buddy is fairly standard stuff, but why on earth was Crosley red? If you put something that bizarre into a story, you need to explain. I could have simply dropped the red part, but then why even use a crocodile? Besides, Crosley was a family pet now, and I didn’t want to change a single knot on him.
But enough of that. Crosley was red because he was allergic to water, of course! Kind of. If he got any water on him, he broke out doing the Black Bottom dance and had to go on for hours unless he took his antidote pills. The pills had this side-effect, though. They turned him red! Plenty goofy, just like Crosley, who I decided had to be as goofy as his color.
So it fell into place: Crosley began as a lights-out buddy, so let’s take it from there: make him part of Night Buddies Amalgamated, whose members sneak kids out on adventures when the kids aren’t ready for bed yet.
The plot had to be as goofy as everything else. So Crosley becomes a pineapple cheesecake fanatic, okay? And it happens that all of the pineapple cheesecakes are disappearing at the world’s only pineapple cheesecake factory. Our two Night Buddies need to take care of this right now!
Susan, you asked about methods for getting little ones to read. The only one I know is immersion. From the age of a few months or even a few days. Read to them every day without fail, so that by the time they are two or three, they will expect it and know literature as a pleasure. Because it is a pleasure except to some who come to it later as a foreign language. Then, when they learn to read, they will want to read. It’s so simple. Look at otherwise educated people who don’t read. Odds are the first book they ever read or heard was in junior high school. The ardent readers get their enthusiasm in their mothers’ milk, and I’ll bet some of them get in on the process just like John did.
John and I hope you like our little book, and thanks for having us.
Learn more about Sands Hetherington and the Night Buddies series at www.nightbuddiesadventures.com. And be sure to like the Night Buddies Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nightbuddies. Read on to find out how you can win a copy of Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare!
One lucky winner will receive a paperback copy of Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare, by Sands Hetherington. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 11:59 PM EST.
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