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  • Writer's pictureLee Murray

Book Gimmicks

This question is lifted from author Sahar Sabati's informative Ask an Author series, which ran from 2015-2016 and included responses and reflections from English-speaking authors from around the globe. Since I'm often asked these questions by readers, I have republished my answers here with Sahar's kind permission.

What an interesting question! Straight away it made me think of the Monster Book of Monsters from the Restricted Section of the library at Hogwarts. Children’s books employ a whole repertoire of gimmicks—er… not all as creepy as that one—to encourage children’s reading. Quite aside from magic of the language, such as rhyming and onomatopoeia, there is the colour and enchantment incorporated into the book’s images, and, depending on the format of the book, options for lift-the-flap and pop-up images, texture, hyperlinks and music. Even a book’s typography can contribute to engage a child’s attention. But the simple things are often best. A long-time favourite of my children was searching for the Lowly Worm character hidden in the Richard Scarry books. The cricket sound added to the last page of Eric Carle’s The Very Quiet Cricket was aways a big hit, too. Adult readers are less influenced by gimmicks, but with a sea of titles out there to choose from, a good cover is key. White space is another good inducement—because, even with the ability to change the font size, no one likes to read cramped text. Overall though, I think the very best inducement for making people turn the page, is not gimmick at all: it’s just a matter of writing an engaging story, one that your reader can’t put down.

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