, I thought, looking around the theater. We'd brought our 11-year-old grandson to see the musical Cats
when it was in Denver recently.
The audience seemed way too young. It was long after their bedtime. Whisperers and wigglers, I suspected. Then the lights dimmed and the music began. The magic took over. I was wrong, of course, about their attention spans. The small ones were mesmerized during the entire production.
Even during the intermission, they remained hooked, slowly moving closer to the junkyard set where Old Deuteronomy remained onstage and in character for the young audience to examine him more thoroughly.
Wow! Maybe those children at Cats were beginning a lifelong tradition of theatergoing that night. Like reading, I thought next, because those of us who create picture books for young readers and listeners really want our audience to love books so much that they'll keep reading throughout their lives.
And that thought moved me on to the other reasons I like writing for children so much. Here are five of them:
1. I like children. I like their honesty and openness. I love their instantaneous feedback letting you know where they stand, like the preschooler who told me my library puppet show was very, very, very not funny. His mother was horrified and apologetic, but I needed to hear that. Thanks to his succinct critique, my show the following week was much improved.
2. I like young children's wacky sense of humor, their contagious giggling and rolling-on-the-floor laughter. They laugh. We laugh. We need to laugh to survive. There is no such thing as too much laughter: We can learn that from them.
3. They are our future. When young readers and listeners get lost in a story, they're leaving themselves behind momentarily to know what it feels like to be someone else, someone whom they are not. (I'll stand on my soapbox here because I'm convinced our future leaders must have empathy for those who are different from themselves, who might need their help and attention.)
4. I like receiving enthusiastic fan letters written in invented spelling demonstrating that preschoolers, kindergarteners, and first graders are already thinking of themselves as writers who have something they want to say: "the book I rilly like is Cats Nihgt Out beccuess it cawnts bie tows." In case you're wondering, that's "because it counts by twos."
5. And lastly, for now at least, I like their wide-eyed wonder, their feeling that anything and everything is possible, even dancing cats.
Even better, I love that they expect and believe in happy endings.