My sister-in-law recently asked me to dig around to find this photo I took of her four kids soon after my niece Laura was born. Looking at it again reminded me of a classic comment made by Sam—that funny little guy on the left—a few weeks before the birth. “Lisa,” he said, “Mommy is going to have a baby. And when it is born, it will either be a sister—or a twin for me.”
In Sam World, you see, if you were a boy, you were supposed to be a twin. After all, both his two older brothers were twins. In Sam World, brothers were supposed to come in a matched set—that was just the norm. So to Sam—unhampered by the laws of science or an adult understanding of reproduction—it made perfect sense that his own twin was just waiting to make a very long-delayed appearance.
That story reminds me of one of the things I think is key to writing successfully for kids of any age: you must be able to put yourself back into the mindset of a child who is the age of your target audience. You need to dig deep down under all the layers of understanding and awareness and logic that you’ve gained on your way to becoming an adult, and transport yourself back to what it was like to have the understanding of a 5-year-old, or a 10-year-old, or a 15-year-old. You won’t be able to fully shed your adult skin, but the better you can remember how it was to comprehend the world through the eyes of that younger “you”—the better you will be able to build a connection to your young readers, those same young readers who see the world with “someday my twin will come” eyes.
In other words, to write for kids, you must be able to move in and out of Sam World at will.