At Egypt camp last week, we quieted 33 loud and rambunctious kids—aged 9-13—everyday with a single phrase: “Let me tell you a story.” Even the older ones, those on the cusp of being “way too cool” for such things, stopped to listen.
My friend Diane Capriola, awesome owner of LITTLE SHOP OF STORIES in Decatur, and I ran the camp based on Rick Riordan’s latest book, THE RED PYRAMID.
It was easy to make the campers shiver with delight at the “gross” details of how organs and brains were removed for mummification, but they grew almost breathless when I shared ancients stories.
After I finished the tale of a mummy who sat up in his coffin to challenge a book-stealing prince to a Senet game, one normally over-active boy looked at me with wide eyes and asked:
“Did that really happen?”
I didn’t know how to respond at first. “What do you think?” I finally asked as gently as I could. He smiled sheepishly, “No, it was just a story.”
Yet, for a moment anyway, his absorption was so deep that it seemed not only reasonable, but also possible that a 4,000 year-old mummy COULD HAVE sat up and challenged someone to a board game. By the time he “came back” into his rational self, he could laugh, along with his friends at the absurdity of it.
Still, that moment perfectly captured why writing for children is so awesome. Kids have not yet lost the wonder and joy that comes with getting completely absorbed in other worlds and/or other times. My only regret is that we ran out of time and I didn't get to tell them the story of the traveler and the giant snake monster. Or of the wax crocodile that could come to life at his master's bidding. Or of the...
Hmmm, it's a good thing I've written a book about all those ancient tales. Now if only I could sell it!