Hooray for Proof Readers!

When I’m reading I find typos quite distracting and #thewriter and I try to ensure that his books are error free, but it’s not easy. And this week when making a quiz for I Don’t Believe It, Archie! by Andrew Norriss I found a whopper. Unbelievable!

Proof reading is a real art/skill. The first time I get to read, or indeed find out anything about #thewriter’s new work is when he finishes a book. I am then allowed to read it for the first time in order to proof read for typos and ‘anything that isn’t clear or doesn’t make sense’. I try to read carefully looking for spelling mistakes, repeated words etc. We both read a script more than once with #thewriter making changes and corrections. Then various people at the publishers read it carefully. We read it again and after more slight changes have been made the book is printed. After so many careful readings by people who really care that the text is accurate it should be perfect shouldn’t it? We read the wonderful new book when it arrives. Perfect – or so we think…

It’s over over a year since I Don’t Believe It, Archie! was published and I decided to make a quiz. (The book is popular in schools and libraries in both the UK and US and and someone had come to my website having searched for one).  I was getting on nicely, there seemed to be six simple questions for each chapter, and then I got to chapter five – On Thursday… the story with the helicopter and the ‘lady in the smart pink skirt’. When the brilliant illustrator Hannah Shaw had delivered rough sketches for the book she drew a picture of the lady wearing trousers. ‘Tut tut’, we said, she should be wearing a skirt. Hannah dutifully changed the picture and all was well – or so we all thought until his week. A question about what the lady was wearing seemed good for the quiz when my eye was caught by the words ‘trouser suit’. What! I re-read the story. Twice the lady is described as wearing a smart pink skirt, and then… turning the page there she is described as wearing a smart trouser suit. Well at least she’s still smart and pink but how could it have happened? So many clever people concerned for accuracy –  #thewriter, #thewriterswife, editor, illustrator, more publishing people, and none of us spotted it. So many readers, teachers and librarians have read and reviewed it and and no-one has written to us to comment on it either. Does that mean no-one at all has noticed I wonder…

lady in skirt

So my question for the quiz changed and is now a useful exercise for children in reading accurately! I am left wondering if our striving for exactitude matters after all. Actually I think it does and when I proof read the next lot of Archie stories I shall pay even more attention to detail and hope not to let anything slip through the net.

The stories however are wonderful. Andrew Norriss has a particular style/gift for writing with clever plots and a light comic touch. This is common to both his children’s books and his screen writing. Fortunately I love the way he writes and so when proof reading there is no worry about feeling critical of the content. How awful it would be not to like the writing style of your nearest and dearest. I laugh out loud and then find a tear in my eye at the end when I read #thewriter’s  books and that’s good because it means the story is working at an emotional level. I am engaged with the characters and plot. And best of all they always leave me with that deeply contented satisfied feeling that you get from a good story well told.

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PS. Aquila, which won the Whitbread Children’s Award, is a Puffin Modern Classic and is read around the world also has an error. That one was spotted and reported to us by a class in Australia who had used finding the lost invisible Aquila as a mathematics exercise and found that the details given in the book don’t actually work. They had the double delight of interesting maths and correcting the author. they’re the only one’s to have discovered it so far.

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