When I started working on this middle-grade book I knew two things:
1) I wanted to write a story that celebrated words. One of my main objectives was to teach children about the importance of words and books. The main theme of the novel is exactly that: the power of language. The Word-Keeper tries to answer the following question: What would happen to the world if words disappeared forever?
Language is one of human kind’s most precious possessions. Words can do good or they can do evil. They can create or they can destroy. They can embrace or they can alienate. They can unite or they can divide. The choice is ours. And if we teach this to children from an early age, I believe it would have a huge impact on the betterment of our society.
If a child knows how important words are, then as a result, they will grasp –almost effortlessly– the significance of honesty, empathy, integrity and what being an authentic human being really means.
2) I wanted the book to be a middle-grade novel with some elements of fantasy. My aim was to make it feel almost like a fairytale in terms of style and with an old-fashioned tone to it.
Why a middle-grade book one might wonder?
Well, because I think the reading we do as children stays deep within us in a way no other reading in our life does.
The books we read when we are seven, eight, nine or ten years old profoundly shapes who we are, what kind of person we become, the values we uphold, how we understand the world and how we relate with ourselves and with others.
There’s nothing better than seeing a child discover the joy of books. Early reading is essential to promote self-confidence, to encourage a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning. As Maria Montessori said: “The development of language is part of the development of the personality, for words are the natural means of expressing thoughts and establishing understanding between people.”
But that’s not all. I was also looking to write about complex matters in a simple way. Mainly because of the fact that, on the one hand, I love the simplicity of a fable or a folk tale. Yet on the other hand, I think children are incredibly intelligent and they are perfectly able to understand complex matters –ranging from philosophy to language to emotional intelligence– as long as you present these topics within a framework and context that makes sense to them.
We shouldn’t be afraid of using elaborate language or vocabulary with children. We just need to be sure to explain the meaning to them. By this I mean, you can use a complex or rare word but use it in a sentence that pertains to their world. And explain that complex word with other simpler words they already know.
Lastly, I longed to write a story that a child would love but if an adult were to pick up the book they would really take pleasure in reading it as well. As C. S. Lewis once stated, "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not good a good children's story in the slightest." I agree with this idea wholeheartedly.
I hope The Word-Keeper inspires people to love and respect one another and the world we live in. And I also hope that the children (or adults) who read this book will be inspired to be who they truly are, without ever comparing themselves to others, and follow their dreams.
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