The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein (review)
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Reviewed by
Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Klein, Cheryl B. The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults. Norton, 2016 368p
ISBN 978-0-393-29224-4 $24.95

As an executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books at Scholastic, Klein has plenty of experience with what does and doesn’t work in a book, but she admits in her intro that “I’ve found writing a book on ‘how to write children’s and young adult fiction’ as humbling and delightful as writing about ‘what humanity is like’ or ‘how to live your life.” It’s therefore with humor and generosity that she lays out an almost step-by-step guide to writing a children’s/YA book, offering advice, guidance, and exercises. Each of the eighteen chapters addresses different elements of the authorial process, from creating multidimensional characters to considering what makes a great first chapter to getting the book published. Exercises are provided throughout the book, including developing a “book map” that charts the elements of the story as the writing moves along. Klein weaves in quotes and notes from fresh, contemporary authors including Maggie Stiefvater, Anne Ursu, and John Green. Since many aspects of the writing process overlap, the information in the chapters does as well, but the repetition is a benefit, continually emphasizing that these steps are merely pieces in what will ultimately be a whole. Perhaps the most useful chapter is the glimpse into her editing process, in which she gives her first and second rounds of notes for a excerpt from the first draft of a (pretend) book. Aside from its obvious utility to aspiring authors, it might prove useful to librarians interested in reviewing or academics seeking insight into production. [End Page 104]

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