Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Girl Who Wanted to be a Rabbit by Tamsyn Murray

I want to tell you a story. It's a true story and it begins in 2010, the year the first Stunt Bunny book was published. I was in a Waterstones doing a book signing and I was approached by a young girl and her family. The girl picked up a copy of Showbiz Sensation and started to read. I chatted to her parents while she studied the cover and, when she'd finished reading, her mum nudged her. "Tell her what you want to be when you grow up."

I smiled, expecting the girl to say she wanted to be a writer. But she surprised me. "I want to be a rabbit," she said.

We chatted for a bit about how she might achieve that (eating lots of carrots, working on her hopping, growing her ears long) and then her dad took her off to look around the shop while her sister and mum secretly got me to dedicate a book to her. "It's her birthday soon," her mum said.

They went away with the book. Time went by and I got an email from Rabbit Girl's mum. Stunt Bunny had been a ginormous hit and had become the first book the girl had read independently. A little while later,  I got another email: she'd gone up a reading level at school. Around Christmas, I received a Stunt Bunny cover design and heard she was writing a book to go with it. And then, in July 2011, I got another message: Rabbit Girl got her Key Stage 1 SATs results and her reading score had gone up one whole level in a year.

I can't tell you how proud I was, both for the small part Stunt Bunny and I had played in Rabbit Girl's achievement and for her own huge triumph. But mostly, I was over the moon that she had become a reader.

I swapped occassional tweets with Rabbit Girl's mum over the following four years, finding out what she was reading now and how the family were doing. A few weeks ago, I got a message from Rabbit Girl that made my heart sing. She'd taken her Key Stage 2 tests and she'd been given a Level 5a in Reading.

I think it's hard sometimes, when you're mired in the business of writing, to remember the eventual purpose of books: to be read. I know that as a Writing for Children teacher, I exhort my students to keep their reader in mind all the time. So Rabbit Girl's latest message served a double purpose. It reminded me of part of the reason I write - to entertain a reader - and also of the power of the right book, in the hands of the right child, at the right time. If I only get one message like Rabbit Girl's in my life, all those times I struggled and agonised and battled to find the right words will have been worth it.

12 comments:

Sue Bursztynski said...

How wonderful! You never know what effect your books will have when they go out into the world, so something like this must gave been thrilling. Congratulations!

Jan Jones said...

Oh, Tamsyn, that is SO WONDERFUL

Penny Dolan said...

One child that truly loves your book makes all the work worthwhile, especially when the book helps them to become a real reader. Such a happy story of inspiration, kindness and fun.

Dawn Finch said...

Oh what a lovely post! It really shows the wider benefits of reading for pleasure. How wonderful.

Luisa Plaja said...

Oh, this is lovely! (And can I just add that I finished reading Completely Cassidy: Star Reporter this morning and I found it totally wonderful!)

Joan Lennon said...

Thank you for sharing this - and thank you to the girl and her family for sharing what you'd meant to them with you - lovely thing for you to know!

Tamsyn Murray said...

Thanks, Sue. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

Tamsyn Murray said...

Isn't it? So lovely.

Tamsyn Murray said...

Thanks, Penny. Something to store up for the rainy writing days.

Tamsyn Murray said...

It does! And the very underrated benefits of aspiring to be a rabbit :)

Tamsyn Murray said...

Thanks, Luisa! And you can add that - I am so chuffed you loved Star Reporter!

Tamsyn Murray said...

It is so lovely, Joan. I feel very privileged to have been a little part of the creation of a reader. Job = done.