Tuesday, February 23, 2016

From the Mouth of Babes, Again

A conversation I overheard at the children’s books’ section of my favorite neighborhood bookstore, yesterday afternoon—


Kid: “This is not a good book.”

Mom: “Why? The writer is very well known.”

Kid: “The story has a happy ending and the good guys win.”

Mom: “That’s a good story, (kid’s name). Don’t you like happy endings?”

Kid: “The bad guys were so much stronger the whole time and they should have won.”

Mom: “In stories good wins over evil.”
Kid: “In some stories I don’t mind. But there was no way in this one.”

In all my years of reading eloquent reviews and how-to books on what kids like and expect, I have never heard it expressed better.


Now that I think of it, my two favorite stories from second grade were The Little Prince and The Little Match girl. Sad endings and no fixes for the imperfections of this world. And yes, I got it, and read and re-read these for years.

Summer Reader
©By Shelagh Duffett
A reminder to self: don’t write happy endings that are just tacked on. Don’t underestimate your readers, no matter what anyone else says about “kids won’t get that.”



  1. That was one sharp kid! They don't miss a thing, do they? But I think is was so perceptive of him to realize that if the bad guys were stronger characters throughout, the good guys winning at the last minute wasn't realistic. This was a real gold nugget about writing to remember.

  2. What a perceptive child! (And a good reminder for us, as writers, when crafting stories.) No cotton candy endings!

  3. What a smart kid! I agree, the ending has to be believable.

  4. I agree the ending needs to be believable, but I still like happy endings and always have.

  5. This was great advice! I've been mulling over a middle grade idea and this is timely. Thanks.

  6. I love this! It's a great reminder, for sure. Especially since I'm writing an adventure story where the bad guy is pretty rotten and in the name of the "protagonist solving his own problem" and overcoming great obstacles, good does prevail in the end. Now, I'm wondering. It does open up new considerations and new possibilities. Good post, Mirka! :)

  7. That's an editor or writer or lit major in the making right there. What a great post. Thanks.

  8. But also, don't just kill off a character for a sad ending--that annoyed me when I was a kid.

  9. That's really quite interesting. I never actually thought about that from a childs point of view.

  10. I totally agree! The ending has to fit the story. That's not always HEA.

  11. Here! Here! That's one smart kiddo (and they're all smart.)

  12. That's a great reminder, Mirka. We've got to appreciate how genuine kids are and how seriously they take their stories. Sometimes, those happy, moral-at-the-end type of stories just don't cut it.