We like to talk about how much the world has changed in the last 15 . . . 20 . . . 40 years. Yet, as writers, especially writers for children, we also need to look for ways that it has remained the same. These similarities are often what enables modern readers to comprehend past events.
I’m taking an adult study course at my church and, since it is during the day, I find myself in a room full of retirees and one seminary student. Last week, I listened to one of the most confident men I’ve ever met talk about how worthless and inconsequential he felt as a child. After all, he was nothing like his big, athletic, handsome older brother. One of the sweetest women on the planet told us about changing a grade on her report card so that her parents wouldn’t get mad at her. Another man said he felt utterly worthless due to his mediocre grades and was always the last picked for a team, but then he found the Boy Scouts.
Don’t these sound like the same emotions felt by kids today? Don’t these situations sound familiar?
These are the emotions that we can use to build a bridge from our historical novel to the modern reader, from our adult self to the reader we hope to hook. Why? These are emotions our grandparents felt, we felt and kids continue to feel today.