LEST WE FORGET 4: Children are honest judges.
“Level with your child by being honest. Nobody spots a phony quicker than a child.”
“Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses them.”
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Children are honest judges. Their judgment may be harsh sometimes, but it comes from an honest heart, unscripted. So, if a children’s writer is looking for an authentic and honest review of his/her stories, who can do it better than the children? Granted the review may not be formal and may not even be in writing! I had one such judgment, unsolicited but authentic and relevant.
A few months back, a friend of mine invited me to his nine-year old grandson’s birthday party. I obliged. At an appropriate time, my friend asked me to tell the children some of my children’s stories. I did, including my favorite: “Mr. Moon Leaves Home” which is about how the moon got his phases.
In this story, which was published in Skipping Stones Magazine (Vol.22, No.1 Jan. – Feb. 2010), the moon is married to three wives and must stay at the home of each wife for a specified period as required by tradition.
The first wife is beautiful and charming but stingy and lazy. She doesn’t give her husband food claiming it’s not ready, lekani vipyenge –“let it be thoroughly cooked.” The moon is starved, he grows thin. That’s why the moon looks like the letter, ”C” in the first phase; thin and gaunt. Frustrated, the moon decides to leave his first wife because she is Navipyenge, stingy.
The second wife is kind and resourceful but has limited food supplies. When her husband arrives, she quickly puts together a meal of leftovers, explaining that she hasn’t got much food but the moon is happy to have something to eat. AS days go by he gains some weight, and develops a potbelly. That’s why the moon looks like the letter “D” in the second phase. But his days are up and must leave Natulang’anya, The scrounger, for his third wife.
The third wife is homely, overweight and spends her time lying down on a reed mat next to the fire place where a pot of fresh stew is brewing. When the moon arrives, he is told to “dish out the stew for yourself.”
“Is it ready?” he asks.
Zubulaninge waka, “Just dish out,” she says. “And eat whether cooked or not; the stomach will know what to do with it.”
For the duration of his stay at his third wife’s home, Mr. Moon eats well, gains his full weight and is happy. That’s why the moon looks like the letter “O” in the third phase and the bright star by the moon’s side is Zubulaninge – The generous one –, his third and favorite wife!
At the end of my stories, the children laughed and capped. Some fidgeted. And others volunteered to tell their own stories
End of the first episode.
On December 31, 2013, my friend and grandfather of the boy whose birthday party I attended sent me a text message: “A week or so ago we were driving and observing the FULL MOON and our grandson shouted ‘Grandpa look he’s with his third wife.’ Wow see your legacy…?”
“I am most humbled. This is authentic, unscripted true evidence the message reached him! He is my true reviewer. Hug him for me,” I said returning his text message.
Then on January 3, 2014 the same friend sent me another text message: “I can’t believe my ears our Grandson just spotted the crescent moon and screamed ‘Gpa now (the) he’s with old mean first wife again poor man.’ Hope you can see moon there too…”
I saw the message about an hour after it was sent and by that time the moon had already gone down!
You be the judges. But for me, this shows the kid loved the story, believed and sympathized with the main character, and was thus able to apply it to real life situations; unsolicited.