Nancy Ellwood has been in children’s nonfiction publishing for more than 20 years, creating series and editing books for small mom-and-pop publishers, as well as one of the big guys. As a mom, she struggles with and delights in the bedtime reading choices of her two elementary-aged kids.
I was glad to have that kind of perspective available, because it allowed me to revisit some cavalier advice I’d given about fairy tales and fantasy stories before I was a parent. When a friend asked me what I thought about exposing kids to stories like the Lord of the Rings too early, I essentially replied that expanding imaginative horizons at the expense of a few nightmares was worth the risk.
But that was before I’d spent a week’s worth of nights talking my son through the fate of a flamingo chick in a Disney Nature documentary. Which was a good use of time, actually; stories are one of the best ways to discuss difficult things. I just don’t dismiss nightmares as easily.
When we talked about Arcadia Publishing’s new Spooky America series, Nancy didn’t dismiss nightmares either. But she gave better advice about scary stories than I did in that she described reading as a sort of ongoing partnership between parents and kids. The parent can err on the side of challenging kids to explore new things because the parent has a good specific understanding of what their kids would find unmanageable.
As an unexpected bonus, she also described the process of finding a shark photographer. It’s hard for me to imagine when I might need that kind of professional help, but it’s also difficult for me to stop running through scenarios in which I casually mention that I’ve got a shark photographer en route.