|Simon and just some of his books|
Like many children's authors, I get regular updates on what's popular in my books because I visit a lot of schools every year. One thing that's emerged very strongly is something that's been a complete surprise to me.
When I started writing my Saxby Smart detective stories, about a schoolkid private eye, I was very keen to make them different in some way, to give them a unique angle for readers to engage with: so I eliminated the sidekick role. Most fictional detectives have their sidekick, but I wanted to do something fresh. So Saxby has nobody trailing around after him, asking questions.
I leave that up to the reader. Saxby's narrative directly addresses the reader at all times, and literally stops to ask the reader questions about the case. I liked the idea of the stories being interactive, with readers being able to attempt to solve the crime at the same time (or before!) the hero of the story.
When the books started to be published over here in the UK, I assumed that this interactive element would make them more of a 'personal' read, not something you'd find on whole-class reading lists. But it's turned out that I was totally wrong.
Wherever I go, I meet teachers who tell me that the Saxby stories are perfect for reading to a class of 8-12 year-olds, or for the whole class to read along together. The interactive element means that everyone can get involved in unravelling the mystery.
Now that the books are starting to come out in paperback over in America, I'm finding that they're beginning to have the same impact in US schools. I'm looking forward to logging on during my regular Skype sessions with overseas classrooms and finding Saxby fans from coast to coast!
Does a detective need a sidekick? Which books work well in the classroom for older teens?
Find out more about Simon Cheshire and his best-selling books, including the Saxby Smart detective stories at www.simoncheshire.com