Tag Archives: Children’s Book Week

Tips for proofreading children’s books

In many ways, proofreading books for children isn’t that different from proofreading any other material … but there are a few extra things to look out for, especially in highly illustrated titles.

betty-nudlerMind the flaps!

Many children’s books, especially non-fiction titles, feature interactive elements such as flaps, pop-ups, stickers and activities. If you’re proofreading on screen, you’ll see the pages in two-dimensional form, but be aware that you might need to consider how different elements of the book would work together in real life. (Would the outline provided fold up into a model of a robot? Are there really 10,000 stickers, as claimed on the cover?) You won’t necessarily need to print things out to get the job done, but you might need to sense-check activities, cross-reference different parts of the product, or count particular elements (all 10,000 of them). Make sure you factor this in to the time you allow to proofread the book, even if the word count is tiny, and consider using a second screen if you don’t already, to speed up the work and increase your accuracy.

When is a book not a book?

When it’s an ebook or an app – both popular formats for children’s books, and with a different set of considerations from physical books. You might be asked to check how a highly illustrated layout transfers to ebook format, for example, possibly with reflowable text. Are all the elements still there, in a sensible order?

With ebooks and apps, you’ll need to find the most sensible way of returning comments, which might not take the form of a more traditional mark-up, but could instead be a list of corrections. With apps you’ll need to make sure you’ve checked and clearly recorded corrections to all the places where text appears – which might not be easy to deal with in a linear way.

childrens-book-week-liz-2Less can be more … when it comes to mistakes

In some ways, children’s books seem too easy. In books for younger readers in particular, you might have as few as twenty words. (Your per-thousand word rate is likely to be reassuringly astronomical!) However, the lack of text can be almost intimidating. Any remaining mistakes have nowhere to hide, and will come back to haunt you for all eternity … or until the books are pulped. Make triply certain that the title on the spine matches the title on the cover and on the title page, for example. Surprisingly often, it doesn’t.

 

Reading order

In boring old adult books, usually you start reading at the top left of a page, and keep plugging away until you get to the bottom right, and then start the process all over again. This isn’t necessarily so in children’s books, where layouts can be considerably more dynamic, with smaller blocks of text arranged across the page or spread, integrated with the pictures, and interspersed with smaller text elements such as boxes, captions and annotations. Pay attention to the reading order of the different elements – it needs to be logical. Sometimes, captions will be the only part that is read, so these need to stand alone. They should work hard, add value to the picture they refer to, and not simply repeat part of the main body text. It seems obvious, but it’s easily overlooked: annotations need to refer to the part of a picture they are pointing to.

Consider the reader

Whatever we edit or proofread, we need to consider the intended reader. But with children as the audience, there are extra considerations. Is the text legible? Are the fonts used appropriate? Although by the time you are proofreading, basic decisions such as font choice will have been made long ago in the process, you might still find instances where things need to be tweaked to help a young readership. Also look out for words, especially technical terms or jargon, that don’t fit the reading age or need to be explained where they appear.

Diversity and inclusion

Children’s publishers often have guidelines for authors and editors on inclusion and diversity. Although these aspects should be considered from the outset of a project – or rather, as this article argues, a book should ‘be diverse without diversity being its selling point’ – it’s still an important aspect of children’s publishing for proofreaders and copy-editors to be aware of.

children-book-week-liz-1Don’t neglect the pictures

You might think of yourself as a word person, but in many children’s books, much of the sense comes from the pictures, so you must pay as much attention to them as to the text. If the text describes something shown in a picture, such as a colour, does the picture reflect that? If the pictures show a step-by-step process, are they in the right order? Many children’s books are commissioned in the knowledge that they will be co-editions, or sold into a range of territories. Often you will need to look out for parochial details in the images that could limit a book’s marketability, such as obviously right-hand-drive cars, or very British-looking police uniforms.

Marking up

Finally, think about the best way to mark up a highly illustrated book. Your client might have guidelines on how they want you to mark up PDFs, but remember that marks can easily be overlooked on busy, brightly coloured backgrounds. If you think a mark might be lost, draw a big box around it or highlight it with a helpful arrow. Go for maximum clarity.

photo 2016 croppedLiz Jones worked in-house for two children’s publishers between 1998 and 2005, and still proofreads children’s books alongside a range of other freelance editorial work for publishers, business clients and individuals. When not editing she writes fiction, and also blogs about editing and freelancing at Eat Sleep Edit Repeat.

 

Photo credit: Betty Nudler Creative Commons

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

SfEP celebrates Children’s Book Week 2016

boston-public-library
Every year, the Book Trust hosts Children’s Book Week to help young people learn the pleasure of reading, and during the week adults are encouraged to share their favourite book from childhood with the younger members of their family. To mark Children’s Book Week (31 October to 6 November 2016) SfEP members were asked to share their memories of the book they treasured most when they were younger and say why it still means so much to them today. As you can expect from a society comprised of enthusiastic booklovers, we received some wonderful replies. I hope you enjoy reading them.

 

Julie Marksteiner
The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton

My favourite book when I was growing up was The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton. Blyton’s school stories hark back to a simpler, more innocent time in the 1940s – a time full of tuck boxes, pinafore dresses and lacrosse matches. I was a fairly quiet, bookish sort of girl (not much has changed there), so I lived vicariously through Elizabeth Allen’s antics at Whyteleafe School. She was muddy-kneed and messy-haired, when I had to be neat and tidy. She broke the rules and did her own thing, whilst I reluctantly played it safe. I thought she was fantastic!

I was fascinated by the idea of boarding school and the camaraderie between the girls – nothing like the suburban primary school I spent my days in. I even tried my hand at writing similar school stories of my own, modelling characters on myself and my friends. You’d have to ask my mum if they were any good, though … I suspect not!

children-book-week-introJulie Hopkins
When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne

Children’s lit is very close to my heart, partly because I never grew out of the little girl that I was; comforting, cherished memories of sitting on my Nannie’s knee or lying in bed listening to her read to me with her soft Wiltshire accent. I only have to glance at certain books (which I still have displayed on my working desk today) and I’m transported back in time …

One of my most precious possessions is my 1970 copy of When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne. I was three years old at the time and my grandmother used to read these wonderful poems to me to help me get to sleep. ‘Nannie’ came from Upavon in Wiltshire, and although she lived in the North West for the longest time, she never lost that soft accent. The book is a treasure trove of poetry harking back to a time now almost forgotten, when children were supposed to be seen and not heard, and to respect their parents, elders and betters. I knew ‘The King’s Breakfast’ (‘The King asked the Queen, and the Queen asked the Dairymaid…’) by heart from a very young age, and particularly loved ‘Vespers’ (‘Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed…’) because sometimes I’d creep into Nannie’s bedroom late at night to find her doing exactly the same – and so I tried to emulate her, too! And I still can’t go into a garden centre today without wondering whether they have ‘…delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red)’ (‘The Dormouse and the Doctor’). It was this short anthology of poems that taught me to look after my own mother or else! (‘Disobedience’: ‘James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree Took great care of his Mother, though he was only three…’). And it was this book that served as my introduction to royalty in ‘Buckingham Palace’, where they changed guard all the time – or so I thought, imagining myself clearly as ‘Alice’! I used to believe author and illustrator E.H. Shepard was a spaceman – purely because the vignettes on the back were framed in circles, which to me looked like space helmets!

Great times. Precious memories. The book sits proudly on my office shelf today, always in sight.

Natalie Weiner
The Bear at the Huntsmen’s Ball by Peter Hacks

My favourite book when I was a child used to make my mum laugh her head off reading it to me, which is why I liked it. It’s no longer in print (as far as I’m aware), so my copy is much cherished. It’s a picture book called The Bear at the Huntsmen’s Ball by Peter Hacks (illustrated brilliantly by Walter Schmögner), published in 1975.

It tells the story of a bear (slightly tipsy from the start) heading off to a fancy-dress party, dressed as a huntsman. On the way, he bumps into …a real huntsman. He mistakes the bear for the ‘head huntsman’ and they head off together to the huntsmen’s ball.

Once there, all the other huntsmen mistake the bear for the head huntsman. Much drinking of beer ensues. The bear then decides they should ‘go out and shoot the bear’. Obviously.

After much drunken stumbling in the snow, and an accusation (by the bear) that the bear ‘must be hiding among us disguised as a huntsman’, the bear’s irate wife turns up, reads him the riot act and takes him home.

The story has the classic ‘he’s behind you’ element – we know the bear is the bear, the huntsmen can’t see it. (That’s beer for you, young readers, let that be a lesson!). It’s ridiculous. I love it.

Julia Sandford-Cooke
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss

Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?
Yes, I like it, fan I am.
I like the strong and rhythmic lines.
I like the very pleasing rhymes.
I like the ways it can be read –
Aloud, alone, tucked up in bed.
I like to do the funny voices –
Grumpy, lively – all those choices!
And those bold, distinctive drawings
Stop repetition being boring.
It’s said the book was written when
A publisher (slyest of men)
Bet fifty dollars Seuss could not
Create an entertaining plot
From a fifty-word kids’ lexicon.
Of course, Seuss answered ‘Yes, I can!’
He did it in exactly fifty
Unique words, which was rather nifty.
The fifty dollars he was due
Never came – that’s publishers for you.
But Seuss did make lots of money
From all his books, profound and funny,
Subversive, clever, full of fun,
Not just for kids but everyone.
So, yes, I like Green Eggs and Ham
But what on earth’s a Sam-I-am?

Picture credit:

Children’s Book Week by Boston Public Library via Creative Commons.

Collated and posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP