Today we're spotlighting Adrienne Kress's book, The Explorers: The Door In The Alley!
Read on for more about Adrienne and her book, plus an guest post and giveaway!
ADRIENNE KRESS ON BEING A RELUCTANT READER
The first time I ever heard the term “reluctant reader” was after my first book was published. Teachers would come up to me and tell me that my book appealed to that kind of reader, which I took as quite the compliment. But I didn’t fully appreciate what they meant. It took a while for me to learn the term, and when I did, it hit me like a ton of bricks: I was, and still am to an extent, a reluctant reader.
For me writing for reluctant readers is really personal. It’s about appealing to kids with whom I share that challenge. It’s also about encouraging them to understand that there is a book out there for them, that they can and will find reading enjoyable. It’s kind of like opening up a portal to another world for them. One which I was lucky to have opened to me by people like my parents, who never gave up on me even as I gave up on reading time and time again. They managed to find the books that eventually clicked with me. That showed me how great reading could be. And I am so grateful for that.
So then, what is a reluctant reader in the first place?
A reluctant reader is just what the term suggests: someone who is reluctant to read. This isn’t a person who finds reading comprehension a challenge, but rather someone who needs to be shown that a book can be as entertaining as, or even more entertaining than watching a movie/TV show, playing a sport, hanging with friends. And, despite enjoying one book, we can be doubtful that another one will be that good. Even to this day, despite the large number of books I have read over my lifetime, when I pick up a new book to read I am concerned about whether I will enjoy it.
I have noticed that there are the following myths about reluctant readers:
1. They prefer easy books.
“Easy” isn’t the concern for reluctant readers. Comprehension isn’t our issue. What we want are compelling books. Of course, this is pretty much what every reader wants (who wants to read a boring book??) but a reluctant reader needs to be invested in the story from page one. We aren’t as patient and we don’t trust as readily that the book will grab us later on. We are more prone to giving up reading the book than pushing our way through it.
2. They prefer shorter books.
If this was the case Harry Potter wouldn’t be one of the most popular book series of all time. Again, it’s not about word count, it’s about the content: pacing, characters, tone, plot. It’s again not so different from your average reader’s wish list.
3. They prefer simple books.
This is the one that gets to me the most. Reluctant readers want as much emotional complexity and thematic content as the next person. They can hold multiple plot threads in their heads. In fact the more of this great stuff an author can pack in there, really, the better because all these things make for a truly compelling read. I think this assumption is also a big reason why reluctant readers end up not reading books supposedly aimed for them. They don’t want simple, and so often that’s what people think they do want.
With all that in mind, what then is compelling to a reluctant reader:
1. Pacing. We all know the term a “page turner”. Cliff hangers, action sequences, keeping the story moving forward at a clip – all those things help create page turners.
2. Humor. Humor is so important. Sometimes humor is held up as a lesser form of art, as something unworthy of award and praise (witness how generally Oscar nominees for best picture tend to be from the dramatic category). But humor is the way in for so many of us. Humor is the thing that connects us, that makes us trust an author. For me personally the biggest moment reading wise came when my dad first read The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to me. I didn’t know you were “allowed” to write books like that: absurd and funny. It changed everything about what I thought books were, and it also seriously influenced my own writing as well.
3. Negative space. This is a term used by designers to mean the space not occupied by stuff (words, images, etc.) on a page. In a book this really relates to the layout of the book’s pages. How wide are the margins? How much white is there around the words on the page themselves. It’s super technical and is outside of an author’s control, but the more white space, the easier it is to see the words on the page and the less daunting reading can seem. I think we’ve all stared at what was essentially a wall of text in a book and found it overwhelming. This feeling is very real no matter how easy or complex or awesome the words or ideas are and can discourage a reluctant reader. I often suggest that when looking for a book, readers flip through it and look for this kind of space. Is there a lot of dialogue for example? Dialogue moves fast and also tends to have a lot of white around it.
4. With that in mind, dialogue is a big important thing too. Dialogue makes it feel a bit like you’re watching a TV show or a movie. It helps bridge that gap between media. And because it takes up more space on the page helps moves things along quickly too.
I have learned so much as a reluctant reader who has grown to love books and reads them a lot. The biggest lesson of course is: there is a book for everyone out there. Reading truly can be fun and exciting. But I’ve also learned that with practice I can start to appreciate different kinds of books. I have challenged myself to read books with small print that take up the whole page, that have very little dialogue, that start off slowly or are more character driven than plot driven. I have discovered a capacity to enjoy a much wider range of literature than I thought I could. But the key thing for everyone to understand is that without those books that taught me reading could be fun, I never would have thought to challenge myself like this in the first place. Without the funny books or without the fast paced books I wouldn’t have learned to trust. So thank you to those authors, to Beverly Cleary, to Judy Blume. To especially Douglas Adams. Because of you I am a reader. And I hope in a small way I might be able to follow your example and encourage a new generation to trust as well.
Meet Adrianne Kress!
Adrienne Kress is a Toronto born actor and author who loves to play make-believe. She also loves hot chocolate. And cheese. Not necessarily together.
2016 saw the release of HATTER MADIGAN: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X., an exciting collaboration with NY Times bestselling author Frank Beddor (set in the same world as his Looking Glass Wars YA books). And April 2017 she releases the first book in her new Middle Grade series: THE EXPLORERS - The Door in the Alley (Delacorte, Random House).
October 2016 her essay appeared alongside work by the likes of Margaret Atwood and Mariko Tamaki in the non-fiction anthology THE SECRET LOVES OF GEEK GIRLS (Dark Horse).
She is also the author of two other children's novels: ALEX AND THE IRONIC GENTLEMAN and TIMOTHY AND THE DRAGON'S GATE (Scholastic). And also the YA novels, THE FRIDAY SOCIETY (Steampunk Adventure from Dial Penguin, 2012) and OUTCAST (a quirky YA paranormal romance from Diversion Books, 2013).
Some more info about Adrienne: she is a theatre graduate of the Univeristy of Toronto and London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in the UK. Published around the world, ALEX was featured in the New York Post as a "Post Potter Pick," as well as on the CBS early show. It won the Heart of Hawick Children's Book Award in the UK and was nominated for the Red Cedar. The sequel, TIMOTHY, was nominated for the Audie, Red Cedar and Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards, and was recently optioned for film. THE FRIDAY SOCIETY was nominated for a Quill Award, and has been optioned for television.
Meet The Explorers: The Door In The Alley!
Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a new series for fans of The Name of This Book Is a Secret and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Knock once if you can find it—but only members are allowed inside.
This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It’s not the one you’re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.)
This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and also a girl on a rescue mission.
The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a series that is sure to hit young readers right in the funny bone.
The Explorers: A Door In The Alley
By: Adrienne Kress
Release Date: April 25th, 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Three winners will receive a copy of The Door In The Alley (Adrienne Kress) ~ (US only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*