My hopes for readers by Hannah Moffatt
I like my stories to come with a good dose of silliness. But, as I’m sure I’ve said in lots of other blogs before, I think funny books can be serious too. In some ways, it might even be easier to sneak serious messages into light-hearted books (in a, hide the vegetables in the spaghetti sauce kind of way).
So, while mostly I hope readers of SMALL BITES BACK simply have fun and enjoy Rory Walker’s brilliant illustrations, I hope they pick up on the lessons Harvey learns along the way – and maybe learn them, too.
With that in mind, here are my three wishes for readers of SMALL BITES BACK.
I hope you’ll:
Harvey really struggles to do this. In SMALL! he grapples with the (wrong) worry that his parents divorced because of him. In SMALL BITES BACK, he’s desperate to become the ‘chosen one’ the giants all expect him to be. The worry of letting everyone down is the weight on his shoulders and the pressure that drives him to visit the vampires, tackle the tooth fairies and take on the zombies of the Unspeakable Circus.
• go easy on yourself
Throughout both books, I hope readers can see what Harvey often misses: that he’s loved, that he’s made true friends and that those friends will help him face the tasks in front of him. He doesn’t need to struggle alone.
I think it’s easy for children to pile pressure on themselves. If they see themselves in Harvey, I hope they’ll also see the support and friendship that surrounds him – and call on that help if they need it, too.
• look for the good in others
In SMALL! and SMALL BITES BACK, no one is quite as they seem. Humans aren’t as awful as the giant students have been taught. Vampires aren’t blood suckers, they’re vegetarians. And tooth fairies … well they do want your teeth, but they’ll much further than they should to get them.
Throughout the sequel, so much of the fear characters feel (particularly in Harvey’s case when he meets the vampires) comes from what he expects vampires to be like. He can’t see how giddily delighted Viscount Bloodsucker is to meet new patients. All he can think about are the stories he’s heard about bloodsucking vampires.
But as the book progresses, Harvey learns that the stories he’s heard about other swamp creatures aren’t necessarily true and he starts making his own judgements. It’s this realisation that gives him the courage to help the werewolves find their lost friend later in the story. And Harvey’s new openness encourages Walloping and the other creatures to think again, too.
So I hope young readers will follow in Harvey’s footsteps and learn to make their own decisions about people and not believe everything they’re told.
• look after your teeth
Dentists often get a bad rep in books. But not all dentists are demons. If any young readers are scared of their check-ups (like most creatures in the Stinking Sinking Swamp!) I hope they’ll see there’s really nothing to be afraid of… as long as they say ‘no thank you’ if a tooth fairy ever offers them an extra sticky toffee.
And, of course, I really hope you’ll enjoy reading Small Bites Back.