Being technical in children’s nonfiction

Another blog has written a great review for Sir Newton’s Color Me Hawai’i. Keiki Gift Ideas, a blog offering up ideas for children’s gifts, posted a nice review, and the writer gave the book to her friend, who also wrote up a review. Bonus, two for one! Click here to see the reviews.


But one of the reviews mentioned some errors and one got me thinking. He or she said corrected my description of the Hawaiian okina (the backward apostrophe in Hawai’i). I described it as a “pause in the word”, but the reviewer said it is a “glottal stop.” The reviewer is correct, but the reason I wrote it as I did was because I thought children would be able to understand a “pause in the word” more than a “glottal stop.”


Not to criticize the reviewer. I welcome the feedback, and I’m thrilled that both reviewers seem to love the books. But when you’re writing nonfiction for young children, how technical should you be? The Sir Newton line of books are age-appropriate mostly for 5-10, but they have coloring and acitivity pages that could be enjoyed by younger children, with their parents reading the text. Perhaps to be most accurate I should have written “a pause in the word, which is called a ‘glottal stop'”. But then I would have been saying the okina was a pause which was a glottal stop — confusing? When I was writing the book, I went back and forth with this, finally deciding to leave out any reference to the name ‘glottal stop’ as it was too complex for children. Did I underestimate our young readers?


What do you think? Have you run into similiar situations? What would you have written?


Write On! 

2 Responses

  1. Keiki Gifts says:

    The “okina” as “a pause” worked fine for me and for my children ~ an interesting fact for those new to the Hawaiian language. The term “glottal stop” might bring a ….”huh?…” response from young children (and adults too) because it is a technical term that may take some time to explain.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. That’s good to know.

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