In search of quality short stories, I recently revisited Cricket Magazine, part of the 14-member Cricket Magazine Group of literary and nonfiction magazines for children and young adults. Cricket’s target reading level is for the 9-14 age crowd.
This April issue sparkled with fiction about a wheelchair-bound boy who rides a horse for the first time; tough poetry about a tough mutt who runs alone; a first-person piece about raising skunks; fiction about a Bar Mitzvah; a fairytale in graphic novel form about a prince who believes he’s a rooster (he wears no feathers, but no clothes, either); an historical fiction story; a recipe for Irish soda bread; and a nonfiction article about the sinking of the Titanic.
I was particularly impressed with “Sunrise,” Nancy Springer’s dynamic story in which Mike, who has spina bifida, is determined not to let himself like -- or even try -- to ride a horse. I could feel his fear of the horse, his fear he could break bones, his fear of possible injury, and certainly his fear that he could even die from falling on the drainage tube that ran from his brain through his neck.
Springer deftly pulls the boy (and me) out of his comfort zone in his protective wheelchair world and onto the horse’s back where he can see higher than he’s ever been able to see before, and in more ways than one.
Talk about point of view! I was in this boy's head!
While we work diligently to produce books, don’t forget to study children’s magazines. Plot, characterization, voice, conflict, resolution, setting, sensory details, dialogue -- the literary elements are there for you to peruse -- and use.