When we received the rights back to our first young adult novel, The SkyHorse, we went into deep edit mode. We revised wording we’d been unhappy with, updated stale references, and eliminated word barriers that blocked character connection.
One part we made no changes to: the accompanying Readers Guide.
Why? Because the theme of The SkyHorse remained the same. That essence is what the book is really about—and what makes a Readers Guide so valuable to both the author and the reader.
When a Readers Guide is well done, the author benefits from exploring the story’s underlying threads and making sure those threads are all connected. The reader gets a peek into the book’s creation and backstory, and has the fun of sharing sometimes surprising insights with friends.
What makes a good Readers Guide? Here are two suggestions.
- Discussion questions that take the reader on a journey of discovery with your character. For example, our hero, Tovi, is taller than the average fourteen year old girl. Tovi doesn’t like being tall and she puts herself on a special diet to keep from growing taller. Questions we asked the reader to consider included: Is the diet a good idea? What advice would you give Tovi about how to accept her height? Should she be bothered because she is taller than everyone else? Can you relate to her feelings about being different from other kids?
- Activities that bring your character’s trials into the real world. One of our writing goals is to create characters that breathe. We feel we succeed when we can incorporate a character’s responses into everyday life. For instance, in The SkyHorse, Tovi is new to Honeysuckle High School and she feels out of place. The related Readers Guide activity is to develop ideas to help new kids in school or a homeschooling group feel welcome.
Creating a well-crafted Reader’s Guide can add another dimension to your book for both you and your readers. We can attest to one more bonus: Writing the guide is fun!
Tovi thinks finding a flying horse is fabulous luck—
until a mysterious stranger says finders aren’t always keepers.
Title: The SkyHorse
Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult fantasy
Rating: Sweet, clean (minimal offensive language; no explicit love scenes)
Suitable for: Ages 10 and up
Length: Novel (44,000 words; 108 pages)
What reviewers say: “I would recommend this book to anyone who loves horse stories, you won’t be disappointed!”
When fourteen year old Tovi Taggert moves to Honeysuckle Hollow to take care of her grandmother, she has a hard time fitting in. For one thing, she’s been tagged with the hated nickname Too-Tall Tovi. For another, everyone at Honeysuckle Hollow High believes Tovi played the Choking Game with someone else’s boyfriend—and made out with him besides.
As if she doesn’t have enough problems, after the latest stand-off in the school hallway, Tovi finds a gorgeous speckled egg nestled in a feather lined nest.
She takes the egg home—and mysterious visitors begin appearing almost immediately. Even more worrisome, whatever is inside the egg starts chipping its way out.
When the egg hatches, revealing a winged horse, Tovi’s troubles multiply.
As she struggles to return the horse to the magical land where he belongs, Tovi must make a courageous decision—and accept what that decision will cost her.
Where to find The SkyHorse
Get the free downloadable Reader’s Guide of The SkyHorse here (Link opens in a separate tab; PDF download, 684 KB)
Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit HLCarpenter.com to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.
Connect with HL Carpenter