Keeping it real

My son and I have the best conversations on the way to preschool. Today’s gem:

Boy: “How old is 10 and three-quarters?”

Me: “Not quite 11.”

Boy: “OK. How about 7 and three pennies?”

How incredibly literal he is! It reminds me of when my daughter, who was 5 at the time, whined about going to ballet practice.

“If you do not go to practice, the teacher will cut you from the recital,” I told her.

Her face paled. “I’ll get cut?”

“Yes!” I told her, still not catching on.

“With a knife?!”

Middle grade and young adult readers aren’t quite so literal, but I still wonder sometimes if my analogies are coming through.

In my work-in-progress, aimed at fourth- and fifth-graders, I describe my protag’s embarrassment when her dad waves with “windshield wiper arms” across the park. I’m pretty sure readers aren’t going to think her dad has windshield wipers for arms.

But some things are trickier. Themes run through the manuscript like dropped breadcrumbs and I hope readers follow the trail. I try to follow my old journalism tenet of “Show, Don’t Tell.”

Here’s an excerpt from the same WIP. I’m hoping readers pick up on Lucy’s growing romance with Sam. She never comes out and admits to the reader (or to herself) that more than mutual loneliness brings the two of them together. But I hope readers pick up on that without me laying it on too thick. Let me know what you think!

Sam rolled his eyes at me. I noticed that while he didn’t talk much, but he said a lot with his face. When he was frustrated, he rolled his eyes. When he was mad, he squeezed his eyes shut and his mouth made a straight white line. When he was happy, his cheeks got a little pink and a dimple popped in his left cheek. When I first came into Ms. Drake’s classroom in the morning, he had this little half-smile and his eyes followed me from the door to my seat. I wasn’t sure what that meant he was feeling, but I liked when it happened.

Maybe I was spending too much time looking at his face.

“Why are you staring at me?” Right now his eyes were circles and his cheeks bright red. I guess that’s his why-are-you-staring-at-me face.

I shrugged, fighting off the blush I knew was creeping onto my cheeks. “Just trying to think of a new bet.”