My latest modern Christmas story in verse, Frizzy, the S.A.D. Elf, recently received the best review ever:
"I wish this future classic had been around when I was a child. I smiled the entire time I was reading it. The characters are lovable and easy to relate to. The rhyme format is fun and will lead to memory skills. There are a few words that may be just past the reading level, which is perfect. These will encourage children to not only learn new words - but to gain the skills to discover how to learn what new words mean. I would recommend every parent, grandparent and teacher to add this to their collection. You do NOT need to have children in your life to enjoy this sweet read tho!" 5 Stars - Sylvia, Goodreads Reviewer
I feel compelled to comment that the writer of this review really "gets" what I am trying to do with these stories—and with every other bit of writing I do for young readers.
I ALWAYS use a few words that are "just past the reading level" in order to "encourage children to not only learn new words - but to gain the skills to discover how to learn what new words mean".
Sometimes these words are regular, ordinary words that are usually part of a literate adult's vocabulary. Sometimes they are interesting "antique" words that I think kids would enjoy learning.
My purpose is not didactic per se, but to entertain kids into learning something new.
When I wrote The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, twenty five years ago, I used many archaic words that I thought were interesting and amusing. My editor told me to take all of them out, as children would be turned off by such words. I fought long and hard with her, and most of these words stayed in.
I have received many, many, letters from readers over the years. In nearly every one, the young writer mentions how much fun it was to learn these old words.
Over 130,000 copies of The Riddle of Penncroft Farm (which actually has an antique word in its very title!) have been sold since it was first released by Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.
So apparently interesting words, new and old, still have appeal for children sated on television, streaming videos and electronic games.