KATE: Was this teenage girl being rude or gutsy?


On Monday night, I received an email from a girl called Sarah*.

I’m guessing she’s about twelve years old:

NB: This is not Sarah. Just a girl in class.

I am trying to complete an English assignment for Tuesday which is tomorrow. I am reading your awesome novel, “Mosquito Advertising.”

I haven’t read all of it yet but I need to know how the character Katie is judgemental towards her friend Lorraine.

If you could please just give me the page numbers. If possible can you reply before tomorrow? If so that would be fantastic! THANKYOU

At first I was rapt to know that anyone was reading my book. And how nice to hear her describe it as ‘awesome’.  But then I realised Sarah hadn’t finished it (I suspect she hadn’t started) and she was asking me to help her CHEAT.

What to do?

The right thing, obviously, would have been to tell her to knuckle down and finish the book. It’s not that long, and a bit of midnight oil burning never hurt anyone. No child learns the tough lessons of life by taking the easy option. Really?

But a big part of me admired her her ticker. It’s a bold, some would say ballsy thing to do, Google an author and email for help. I wouldn’t have done it.

But then, I couldn’t have. Email and Google were science fiction in 1982. Still, putting technical impossibilities to one side, would I have written to the author of To Kill A Mockingbird?

Dear Miss Lee

I’m doing your book for Grade 9 English and it’s really, great but I’ve been too busy to get through it. If you could just let me know whether Tom Robinson was found guilty that would be tops. By tomorrow morning if poss.  Cheers,

PS Congrats on the Pulitzer.

No, I wouldn’t have had the guts. And I’d have been bitter and jealous if any of my classmates had done it. Which is stupid – there’s no law against contacting an author. No reason I couldn’t have done it. I always tell my kids have a shot, you’ll never succeed if you don’t try. I also expect them not to cheat, if that’s what this is.

It made me wonder: Is resourcefulness as valuable as hard work?

Yes, I believe it is. Taking a shortcut doesn’t matter as long as you get there in the end, right?  Thinking outside the square, using the catflap if the front door closes, making lemonade out of lemons.

Our favourite characters in fiction, and in life are often the rule breakers, the lateral thinkers. The crazy ones.

They’re the kids who skipped the book and emailed the author.

What do you think? Should I have helped Sarah out?

*name has been changed.

Editor’s Note: As promised – here is Kate’s response to Sarah.

Hi Sarah,

I’m really sorry and maybe you won’t believe this, but I’m not sure of the exact passage your assignment refers to.

Katie’s character is quite judgemental towards Lorraine throughout the three books, even though they’re best friends. I can’t remember using the word ‘judgemental’ but I very well could have.

Katie and Lorraine have an argument in Chapter 14 – this may or may not be helpful.

I really hope you do okay in your assignment and get around to finishing the book. I think you’d enjoy it. Writing to an author the night before homework is due is exactly the sort of thing Katie would have done.

Good luck, Kate