Critique to critical acclaim?
Since 2017 I’ve been part of an online critique group. Every month, we share stories, then sit back and wait to have our dreams crushed, just in a kind and helpful way.
For the last five-and-a-bit years, I’ve had the pleasure of critiquing work by Kate Peridot, who has just had her first two books published!
I thought it would be interesting to look back on my perspective of her journey, and the transformation of one title in particular.
Looking back over my emails, the first few stories of hers I critiqued were standard picture books. It was clear Kate could write well, but the stories never really made me go ‘Wow, this has to be published’ (sorry, Kate!)
And then, in 2019, something changed. I received the first few chapters of a non-fiction book called ‘Who’s in Charge in the Animal Kingdom?’ Immediately, I got much more engaged in the book. The same quality writing was there but the non-fiction genre just seemed to bring out that extra sparkle and magic.
The book looked at lots of different animal families and the differences between them. I think the version I saw had elephants, lions and possibly ants in it, each with its own unique family structure. I was always fascinated by nature as a kid so knew a lot of the content but it was really interesting to see the focus explicitly on family structures; it wasn’t something I’d seen before in a children’s book.
I’m not sure if any of my feedback made any difference to the final book. I’d like to think it did, but it was a really good concept with strong writing already. I do know that some of my feedback was, quite correctly, ignored. There was a section at the back about animals that live on their own, which I suggested should be removed. Kate chose to keep it in there, and she was right.
I know this, because I have a copy of My Animal Family, written by Kate Peridot, illustrated by Nic Jones and published by Dorling Kindersley, sat in front of me. Almost exactly 4 years after seeing that draft book proposal, the dream is a reality. It’s a beautifully illustrated, informative and entertaining book I know I would have loved as a kid.
This is what we all aspire to as children’s writers – to create something that will be enjoyed by children and, who knows, maybe inspire them as well. It’s certainly inspiring for me. I’ve seen lots of Kate’s work in draft form and can see that journey from concept to completion in this book; a journey I know is possible for me, too.
Huge congratulations to Kate for achieving what sometimes feels like an impossible task: getting published. I’ll be ordering my signed copy and, when it arrives, I’ll place it on my desk as a constant reminder that, next time, it could be my early draft that reaches publication. And, when it comes out, I’ll be first in the queue for Kate’s next book, Meet the Bears, mostly so I can see if any of my review comments got used!