Monday, January 23, 2006

Another child prodigy to worry about -- well, two actually

I have never been happy about child prodigies. If I was religious, I would thank God for not having given me brilliant children. Bright, yes. Thank you, Lord. But not brilliant.

Apart from any other reason for distrusting early signs of genius, I spent most of my working life with people with IQs approaching 200, and you pretty soon learn that a man (or woman) can be a world-class physicist or mathematician and still display a remarkable reluctance to do anything sensible.

Anyway, Friday brought news of a couple more child prodigies for me to worry about. An anonymous commenter on the Libby Rees saga gave me a link to the web site of Adora Svitak, who is 8 years old, or thereabouts, and is described (by Good Morning America, no less) as 'a tiny literary giant'. The web site calls her a writer, poet, and humanitarian.

Hmm. Well, one thing's for sure; the media love her. Naturally. Whether it's good for a kid that age to be feted by national (US) TV is a different matter. The web site features extracts from Adora's various works, and, yes, she does have a blog.

I worry about this kid's future. And as if that wasn't enough, the web site has a link to info about another of the same. This girl is is Akiane, and the front page of her web site labels her officially as a child prodigy. She is also described as 'the only known child binary genius'. And she's been on Oprah, so it must be true.

Well, that's quite enough of all that for me, thank you.

And if you want to know what happens to children who get masses of media attention when they're young, the answer (apparently) is that they grow up to be novelists.

Take Macaulay Culkin, for example. Last heard of living in an apartment in New York and getting drunk with lots of young friends (oh, and giving evidence for Michael Jackson), Culkin, it appears, has been busy. He's been writing a novel. Well, a sort of novel.

The Book Standard gives us an early peek at the forthcoming Kirkus review of Macaulay Culkin's book Junior. The reviewer doesn't quite say This is a heap of shit, but he/she might just as well have, because that's what the review amounts to. The book, says the reviewer, 'briefly ascends to the level of mediocrity. Filled with jokes lacking wit, introspection devoid of insight, poetry made of nothing, this is a work frustratingly short on substance.'

This is going to annoy quite a few people, I feel. The book, that is. Not the review. I wonder what the advance was?

11 comments:

Henway Twingo said...

I'm afraid as a recovering gifted child and art student, this is a pet peeve of mine, so forgive the strident respense. If we imagine any of this poetry or art coming from an undergrad instead, it's unremarkable work on its own, merely the beginnings of something that could be wonderful, I hope, not a state of final achievement. But many adults seem to react as if we'd be overwhelmed by the work without knowing it came from a young child. I wouldn't, because it isn't good enough to stand out among mature poets or artists.

I never assume artistic progress (or even rarer, brilliance) will inevitably occur for myself or anyone else. However it seems especially unlikely when immature, albeit promising, work is so celebrated as the messianic widsom of babes that it risks hyper-affirming a talented child and her dazzled parents right out of further evolution.

Anonymous said...

Prodigy on a mission to turn children into lovers of literature

She dashes off poems and reads Voltaire in her spare time. Now Adora, eight, is coming to tell British pupils how to write

Anushka Asthana and Matthew Ogborn
Sunday February 19, 2006
The Observer


Adora Svitak loves to read and write. Over the past 18 months she has had a 296-page book published and written 400 short stories and nearly 100 poems. Typing at 80 words a minute, she has produced 370,000 words while reading up to three books a day. The last novel she finished was Voltaire's Candide. Not bad for an eight-year-old.
As if that wasn't enough, the child prodigy has also made it her mission to persuade other youngsters to ditch their computer games and pick up a book or a pen.


Article continues

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'When I was little I thought everyone in the world liked to read, because it was so fun,' said Adora. 'But then I realised that was not exactly true. I want other kids to read and write more all over the world, because it helps them to understand things better.'
Adora tours schools in her native Seattle, demonstrating touch-typing and carrying out PowerPoint presentations on how she learnt to write and why it is fun to read.

She takes in props, such as cuddly toys, to show how things around her inspire story ideas. One of her slides reads: 'If I saw a black cat near my house, I could make up a whole story about a witch and the family she had cursed.'

In June she hopes to come to Britain to convince children here of the joy of reading. But some have questioned whether she will get as warm a welcome as she does in America. Children who have struggled with reading might feel patronised, said one child psychologist.

And few will be able to understand the difficult books that Adora can tackle in a morning. She reads widely, from fiction to history and biography. She was only four when she started writing stories, but her writing really took off when her mother bought her a laptop at six. At seven, her first book, Flying Fingers, a mix of her own fiction and writing tips for others, was published. She already has a deal for her second book, a collection of poetry.

Adora is supported by Joyce, who is an interpreter. But she insists the campaign is Adora's own doing. 'She does this off her own back,' she said. 'She understands what she is doing, but we do encourage and support her.' Their decision to come to the UK comes after figures showed that 52 per cent of five-year-olds failed to reach literacy, language and development targets.

Reading for pleasure is one way to push up achievement, according to Viv Bird, director of Reading is Fundamental, a project run by the National Literacy Trust. She said peer-to-peer encouragement was very important: 'It is fantastic that Adora is getting people thinking about books. I just hope her trip is not met with too much cynicism.'

Bird said it would be good if Adora teamed up with local children who were also writing books.

One British success is keen to meet Adora. Libby Rees, author of Help, Hope and Happiness - a self-help book for children whose parents are divorcing - said: 'It would be fun to meet someone who has done something like me. I really hope I have encouraged children to write.'

Libby, who is 10, is set to host her own Trisha-style chat show later this year. Charles Faulkner, of her publishers, Aultbea Publishing, said it was the honest and positive outlook of children that made their writing unique. 'It is not just their age, but the quality of work is very refreshing,' he added. 'These children are exceptionally bright and ahead of their years in school.'

Adora has the reading age of 20, according to her teachers. But success hasn't gone to her head.

'She is not arrogant at all,' said her writing teacher, Felisa Rogers. 'She is above average ability, but we make sure we tell her that this is because of her hard work.'

Adora the author

Prince Garrick scornfully tossed aside a beautifully gold-embossed leather-bound book. 'Peasant's trash,' he scoffed to the trembling minion who had presented the gift.

'B-beg p-pardon, y-your sup-superior h-highness, I n-never meant no h-harm,' the servant stuttered, stepping back and tripping over an ornately designed china pitcher.'

· Extract from Flying Fingers

Andrew O'Hara said...

I always delight in these infants who write with phrases like "However, it can be easily concluded that these senior citizens of the beastie community dote upon their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so on, perhaps because they feel that they were too harsh with their own children when they were younger."

It's wonderful to know that she dashes off such sentences at 80 words a minute without anyone writing it for her (the polite term is "a little editing.")

Amazing. For a brief moment, I thought it was another scam. Silly me.

Anonymous said...

As Adora's writing teacher, I can assure you that I have better things to do than edit her blogs.

Anonymous said...

Why adults like us have such a hard time to accept and face children who seem to have more talents and luck than us? Why do we have such a hard time to realize that the children who achieve the "unachievable" actually deserve the glory and oppportunity because they have worked very hard and enjoy working hard? Do we forget to set a positive example for our children? Ready to trust and believe in them? Maybe it's us who have problems and not the children. Why do we believe that the children will actually allow somebody to fake their work?

Anonymous said...

Eight-year-old internationally published author Adora Svitak tackles hot button issues in her upcoming novel, "Yang in Disguise."

Redmond, WA (PRWEB) March 23, 2006 -- Eight-year-old author Adora Svitak tackles hot button issues in her upcoming novel, "Yang in Disguise". Although the novel is set in a fantasy world, the young author says that her antagonist, a greedy and amoral king, is ‘a more toned down version of George W. Bush’. When his son leaves his father’s kingdom to see if he can find a more peaceful solution to his country’s problems, the eight-year-old author uses each land he visits as an opportunity to comment on a number of political and cultural issues, including gay rights, immigration policies, Middle Eastern women’s rights, the environment, vengeance, and nationalism. Svitak, who cites Voltaire’s Candide as an influence, says she wanted to ‘use comedy to keep people thinking’. Svitak’s touch is certainly more comedic than didactic, instead of being obsessed with crude oil, one land her main character visits is engaged in a war over cooking oil.

Svitak published her first book, "Flying Fingers: Master the Tools of Learning Through the Joy of Writing" at age 7. The second American edition is in the works, and the book has also been published in China, where Svitak is a media sensation. A Korean edition is pending. In addition to "Yang in Disguise", the author has just finished work on a book of poems, "Dancing Fingers", which is designed for younger readers and is more whimsical than political in tone.

‘I like to keep exploring different genres. My first book was more strictly a collection of fantasy and historical fiction with writing tips,’ Adora says. ‘I watch the news a lot, and it gets me thinking. My goal with "Yang in Disguise" was to create a story that would explain some of my ideas about war and peace, but still be funny to other kids.’

Anonymous said...

Home-schooler teaches others to read
More than one-third of fourth-graders can't read at the level they should. But one 8-year-old girls is out to change that, reports NBC's Peter Alexander. • FULL STORY
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10397946/

Flying Fingers said...

Literary Prodigy Shares Passion for Reading and Writing
By Liu Enming
Washington, DC
29 December 2006

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After publishing her first book when she was only seven, Adora Svitak was dubbed a "Tiny Literary Giant" by Diane Sawyer of Good Morning America. For producer Liu Enming, Elaine Lu has the story of this child prodigy.

Adora Svitak started writing when she was only four. She published her first book Flying Fingers at seven, and authored more than 400 short stories. Flying Fingers was published in four languages for international audiences. Recently she was invited to New York City's Stony Brook University to speak to aspiring children and their parents at the Charles Wang Center.


Adora Svitak
"Hello everybody, I am very glad to be here and I hope you are, too," she said, introducing herself. "Today I am going to show you a few pictures, slide shows of myself. I am going to talk about writing and reading. This poem I am going to read to you is from my book Flying Fingers, titled 'Ghost.'"

Adora Svitak was invited in 2005 to appear on Good Morning America, a popular ABC morning television program, to demonstrate her writing talent. The famous late anchor Peter Jennings was on the set that day, and showed great interest in this literary genius. He even sent her his own history book, The Century for Young People, after learning that little Adora loves history.

Under the limelight, Adora might be a celebrity surrounded by fame and adoration, but at home, she is just an ordinary little girl who loves to play.

"Under a night with a starry sky,
under a night with dark blue up high,
under the night, they sit together,
anonymous men, as white as a feather.
Quietly they lurk around,
making not a single sound,
at the stroke of midnight, they all vanish,
leaving their trail shinning bright."

- Adora Svitak excerpt from "Ghost", in Flying Fingers

"I discovered [my love of writing] when I was pretty young, maybe 4 or 5. I just felt that sometimes [I had] so many ideas, and I should write them on paper. When I was 6, I got my first laptop. I wrote quite a few stories. My mom was very surprised, because sometimes I wouldn't go to dinner when I was writing these stories."

Adora reads insatiably: more than 2,000 books over the past five years. She says books are like wings for her imagination. "Yes, I love to read and write because it gives me a chance to express myself and I can share my thoughts with others," she says. "And through reading, I gain knowledge and I have fun, and I can go to other places because books are like wings."

Along with being an avid reader, Adora is a self-proclaimed "amateur historian" and a news junkie who often works today's headlines into her writing.

"I am going to read you a sample of one of my stories, which is called Yang in Disguise. My two new books are called Yang in Disguise and The Pickpocket Princess,"the girl explains. Yang in Disguise is a political satire of President Bush, because I disapprove of many of his policies."

Adora's mother Joyce Svitak credits dedication and commitment for her daughter's success. She says, "She might be precocious, and she is intelligent. But I think the most important component of her success is her hard work."

Adora enjoys traveling to schools and sharing her love of reading and writing with other children, because it is part of her clear goals for the future. "To inspire other children to read and write, I also hope to make the world a better place. I also want to write more books," she says.



To view Adora on Voice of America, please click here http://www.voanews.com/english/2006-12-29-voa26.cfm

Anonymous said...

Young author aims to inspire students

9-year-old gives look at creating a story

Being younger and shorter than her audience did not bother 9-year-old author Adora Svitak, who Tuesday commanded the attention of more than 100 sixth-graders at Hyde Park Middle School.

Although Adora stands 4 feet tall, her presence loomed larger when she spoke. Her mastery of the English language with the writing hints she gave Hyde Park students had them hanging on her words.



"Do you want this story to be more about magic or technology?" Adora asked the 11- and 12-year-old students "Do you want this to be some sort of murder mystery?"

The sixth-graders responded with an unsynchronized and loud, "yeah."

And from there, Adora's mind went to work.

Within five minutes, she had written -- on a laptop that was projected onto a screen -- the introduction of a story about an arrogant woman named Marinthia who fielded a mysterious phone call during a rainy day that gave her the impression her father might have been killed.

"Your imagination can stretch far," the fourth-grader from Redmond, Wash., a Seattle suburb, told students.

Adora's imagination helped get her first book published at the age of 7: "Flying Fingers," a reference to her ability to type fast on a computer keyboard at which she spends hours a day writing stories.

The book is a how-to for parents, educators and students, guiding them in techniques children can use to develop stories and write. Her book has been published worldwide.

Adora is in Las Vegas because she is scheduled as an inspirational speaker for real estate officials Thursday at the Mandalay Bay.

Adora's mother, Joyce, said Adora was not at Hyde Park plugging her book. She was there to show "children what they can do" at a young age, Joyce Svitak said.

She added that although her daughter learned how to read by the age of 2 1/2, she did not realize that she was gifted until at the age of 5. At that age, Adora would write for hours every day.

Adora has three finished, yet-to-be published books that range from fiction to poetry to political satire.

Adora was blunt with the students about where she received some of her inspiration for her political satire.

"I disapproved of some of George Bush's policies," she said.

Joyce Svitak said the satirical book will make reference to the Iraq war and the No Child Left Behind Act federal standards.

On Tuesday, Adora told students that they can get inspiration for stories from anything, even inanimate objects such as broken glass and cheese.

She talked of a having a strong vocabulary, drawing stories from real-life experiences and how to write a solid beginning, middle and end of a story.

One example she gave was to provide new locations and characters during the middle of the story to keep the reader interested.

"It inspires people to know that they can do anything if they put their minds to it," said Hannah Boynton, age 11. "She wrote a book and got it published at age 7. Who thinks of doing that?"

Boynton's classmate Daniel Diaz, 11, said he was inspired and will follow some of Adora's advice.

He said he imagines he will be reading Adora's books throughout his lifetime.

"I think at this rate, she'll be a very famous writer."

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I see you care about prodigies.
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