I recently revisited my old diaries when fellow author Terra Elan McVoy approached me about participating in a diary share campaign she is organizing to launch her new book, This Is All Your Fault, Cassie Parker, which is out TODAY. To promote the campaign, Terra gathered diary pages from several authors, including me. If you follow the hashtags #diarydare and #yourfaultCassie on Twitter and Instagram, you can check out some of our old diary entries!
You can also join in the fun for a chance to win a prize by sharing pages from your own diary! A link to details appears at the end of this post.
Most of you know that my own books, The Boy Project and The Boy Problem were influenced by my old school diaries. Reading through my diaries reconnected me with the feelings I had as a tween and teen. To me, this is the most important thing about diaries. They are perhaps the only place where we can be completely free with our feelings. And this connection to feelings is what makes books written in diary formats so appealing to young readers.
I wrote an article about this very thing a while ago for The 4:00 Book Hook, a wonderful newsletter for book lovers that is no longer in print, so I thought I’d share that article here today in celebration of It’s All Your Fault Cassie Parker and diary keepers everywhere!
A diary is a safe place where we can share our most secret feelings. True? Of course! It is what makes diary format books so appealing to young readers. These books employ first person narrators who share feelings with their diaries, and thus their readers, that they don’t share with anyone else. This creates a sense of kinship between reader and narrator that is almost immediate. Adults searching for a way to talk about feelings with the children they care about might find a diary format book a doorway into conversation. Talking about feelings presented through the eyes of a narrator can launch discussion about a child’s own feelings.
One of my favorite books for very young readers is Diary of a Worm, a picture book by Doreen Cronin. Cronin’s simple text consists mostly of one sentence entries, but Worm communicates his feelings about friends and family very effectively. He touches on familiar subjects like nightmares, being laughed at by peers, and getting in trouble with parents: all things that evoke strong feelings for kindergarten aged children and younger. What a great book to use to start a discussion about the feelings these children experience almost daily!
Elementary school readers might enjoy Amelia’s Notebook by Marissa Moss. Amelia expresses some very strong feelings about having to move to a new state– she hates it – on the very first page. Through colorful drawings as well as her words, Amelia addresses the pain of leaving a home and a best friend behind and the struggles of finding a new friend. Children will be able to relate to and talk about Amelia’s feelings of being out of place and on the outside of things even if they haven’t experienced moving.
A common theme in diary format books geared for the middle grade audience is social awkwardness. This is true of the wildly popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. Through narrator Greg Heffley, Kinney captures some of middle school’s most awkward moments. Spring boarding a discussion with this comical book would be a non-threatening way to discuss fitting in and decision making with middle school aged children.
The hardest feelings to discuss with our children are those they experience when they enter young adulthood. YA books written in the diary format often deal with angst regarding social pressures, sexual curiosity, and drug usage. In Cathy’s Book by Sean Stewart, Jordan Weisman, and Cathy Briggs, Cathy wakes up to find a needle track in her arm. She can’t remember much about the previous night, and is forced to wonder if she’s been drugged and taken advantage of by her ex-boyfriend. Because her parents are virtually absent, Cathy must struggle with her feelings alone.
The children in our lives don’t have to struggle with feelings alone. There are many wonderful diary format books on the market today. Share one with your favorite reader and discuss.
And writers out there… as a writing exercise, try letting your characters write in their diaries, whether you use it in your book or not, it is a great way to get in touch with your characters’ feelings.
Don’t forget to check out and participate in Terra’s #diarydare campaign. Click HERE for details!