So the results are in...
The little critics have spoken. We have always been told to prepare ourselves, kid's don't tread lightly on your emotional sensitivities when it comes to their cold honest opinion. Well, I'm not sure that's totally true, some do but those aren't the opinions that get your attention.
We had managed to get back a large portion of the forms (see previous blog post) we handed out and it was time to sift through the results. This, together with some of the questions that children had asked on our school visit, gave us a much better overview of what appealed and what didn't when it came to our book.
Some of the comments were more about our performance than the book itself (one boy remarked on the 'fat old frog king', it took a moment to realise he was talking about my character performance i.e. about me, cue slightly over-long laughing fit from Eleanor); although we were more interested in getting feedback for the book rather than our acting skills or physical attributes at this point in time.
The overwhelming feedback was hugely positive (even now I can tell you are waiting for the few that weren't, you are aren't you? I can tell. Shame on you!).
Nothing was quite as we expected
The favourite character from the story was Dandy Doogood. Lots of children liked him because of his fabulous hair, so there you go. We wondered if this wasn't also because he was the youngest character but that wasn't mentioned. We thought perhaps a character closer to their age wins their favour more than the older characters (particularly that 'fat old frog king -just drop it, Trevor). Doogood happened to be a character we weren't sure about previously, but he has now won our confidence.
Here are a few of the comments we got back:
What did you like about the story of Galdo's Gift?...
'I liked how it was animated and how you made the characters move. I also like how the characters were made to look weird and funny.' -Ben, aged 9
'I liked the names.' -Bethany, aged 10
'I like how it had a lot of humour in it.' -Jasmine, aged 10
'It's very adventurous and exciting' -Tameem, aged 10
'I was very excited about all of the weird characters' -Ana, aged 9
'it was hilaryus' (sic) -Abigail, aged 9/10 -(!?)
Anything you didn't like?...
'Mustafo because of the bird on his head' -Maia, aged 9 (it is not going to be a bird anymore)
'No!', 'Nope', "no!!!!", 'nothing' -the large majority -thank you!
'I liked it all so 5 stars for you' -James, aged 10 (honoured, thanks, James)
'I didn't like anything. I loved everything' Lily, aged 9 (-phew!)
'It was hard to keep up with the story' -Leon, aged 8 (we think this might have been partly our performance of the story but nevertheless we have since revisited large sections of the poem to better pace out the story and it's clarity and the poem is all the better for it).
'the dragon poo' -James, aged 9 (I take your point, James, but your are seriously outnumbered on this one; what can I say, I had my reservations but the crowd wins I'm afraid)
'When Strompoff brought back snails' (he doesn't bring back snails anymore but it wasn't this comment that made us change it, honest)
'It was all perfect' -Sam, aged 10 (this can't be true, but thank you, Sam)
'The colour sceams (sic)' Daniel, aged 9 (a fair comment from our art critic here, although we did get a lot of kids saying they liked the colours)
Learning at school
So just a selection there. We were happy that the overwhelming comments were great but we have not shied away from tackling the criticisms as well. There has been a lot of rewrites since our school visit based on the feedback we got from the forms and the questions.
One little boy asked about why the heroes brought back what they did. That was a fair point; it is not enough just to put something into a story because you think it is funny or gross. A lot of children needed a good reason behind it as well, the detail was important. We realised that there were gaps in the story that we hadn't realised were there because we had behind-the-scenes knowledge that filled those gaps for us; we needed to pass that on. Rewrites involved adding excuses/reasoning from the heroes as to why they brought back what they did and it has added validity to the story.
We have also taken onboard comments from friends who have read the story to their children. This can very much be a process of reading between the lines as naturally friends don't want to hurt your feelings.
In the end you can't be upset if the response is not what you hoped on release of the book if you haven't responded to criticism on the way. It can also give you an extra boost to the creative process to hear lots of great stuff about our work too!