A hairy story

Illustrated by Sandra Camell.
SPRINGBOARD SERIES 27A. 2005
Available from www.macmillan.com
(out of print)
ISBN 0-7329 9603 1
Included in the NSW, Victorian, and South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenges.

Opening paragraph:

 “Ben sat in the hairdresser’s chair and stared into the mirror. He could see an old man in the next chair. The old man had a round face with twinkling eyes. He had a thick beard and hardly any hair on his head. He looked a bit like the gnomes you see in some people’s gardens, except he wasn’t wearing a hat.

WHAT INSPIRED THIS STORY?

This is my favourite’ read aloud’ when I am with a class of young children. I like its simplicity, yet the way it goes ‘over the top’ as the hair continues to grow. It is the age old tale of being granted three wishes, but the result being not what the wisher expected.

Most children have experienced going to the hairdresser and disliking the result. So this is another way of accepting what we finally see in the mirror. Hair grows back, doesn’t it? Sandra’s illustrations wonderfully illuminate all that excess growing high enough to engulf a plane.

This was my response when asked if people are still reading

‘No one reads anymore,’ said a young critic after asking what I do for a living. He had me thinking. Can this be true? In the twenty-first century, are there too many other ways to use our imaginations? Have we become viewers, players and listeners instead? It seems that a percentage of youngsters remain functionally illiterate but graphically, they can manage to read the signs. How will these kids operate in a world that demands the ability to read in order to gain a driver’s licence, run a computer, handle money and even understand the contents of a supermarket shelf? Is there anything we authors can do to make the learning process less arduous?

Playing with words and ideas is what we writers do. We can help our audience solve current situations, take them into the past, help them imagine the future, or travel to far away lands. It’s just a question of how we do it. Words? Graphics? Illustrations? Audio? Performance? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be assured that our present loneliness or sadness must surely pass. Ultimately, the best thing about reading is that it can offer the reader comfort in what is often a difficult and puzzling world.

So my advice to aspiring writers is to read your work over community radio. That’s one way of honing your technique. Community radios often have segments for new writers’ works and are usually happy to provide airspace. There’s nothing like listening to yourself on playback to allow the message of careful slow reading to sink in. I have often read a new work into a tape recorder or over radio only to realise how much more editing was needed. The experience can be most salutary. And don’t forget your local school. Schools love writers coming in to read their work. Those young listeners are highly critical, and you will soon learn when your work is overlong, or boring or not correctly pitched to your audience.

Also thank heavens for audio books. They are another way of reaching a wider audience as busy folk work, walk, cycle and drive. Only I sometimes find that even professional readers speak too quickly when they have to compete with noisy traffic. Just like less can be more, maybe slow can be faster?

 

 

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