Author Mary Kole is a literary agent who runs the popular blog kidlit.com, which I was already somewhat familiar with before I picked up the book. I'll be honest, I envisioned the book containing a lot of the same information I've already read in other places--you know, an overview of the different genres in the children's market, popular themes, how to write a book synopsis, query letters, etc. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised at all the useful information Kole packs into this book. Writing Irresistible Kidlit is so chock full of examples, explanations, and exercises that I had to digest it in bits and pieces over the course of a month. I learned all about storytelling foundations, character development, plot, imagery and setting, sidekicks and villains, authority and authenticity, just to name a few. When I was finished, I felt like I had participated in a course students earning an MFA might take.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about, from the chapter on plot:
The rhythms of the writing itself should reflect the emotion of what is being described. You can twist this expectation and play with it. For example, what if a character was meeting a serial killer for the first time, but thought he was friend? Use shorter, choppier sentences to give the scene a sense of foreboding. Your reader may not pick up on your danger signals right away, but you will be raising a subsconscious red flag.
When you want to take the tension to the next level, don't just consider what you're saying--think about how you're saying it.
Wow! This passage gave me so much to think about, as a common critique in my own YA is that I have a tendency to rush scenes. The book I'm currently working on involves a girl with a classmate stalker, so this entire chapter was particularly useful.
I really liked that Kole includes lots of specific examples from YA and MG books currently in the marketplace to illustrate her points. She also guides the reader through exercises designed to improve your work-in-progress, such as this one:
Reading for Tension: Print out your manuscript and settle in for a read. Every time you feel your attention wander at all, even for an instant (be honest!), make an asterisk in the margin. Seriously sit down and do this, don't just think about doing this. Go back through and try the tools from the chapter to add tension to those sagging moments.
My only complaint is that I purchased the Kindle version of the book (I was on vacation and needed instant gratification!) and the formatting isn't as easy to follow, plus I couldn't keep up with the exercises. I will be purchasing a print copy of the book to remedy that though, as this deserves a spot on my writing resource shelf. I've already recommended it to several friends.