Early Harvest 7 is a book for young readers with big dreams.

It was the last editorial meeting for the young editors of Early Harvest 7 – but an important one. The 14 editors, aged 10-12, were considering whether or not to include the story submitted by the Australian Children’s Laureate Morris Gleitzman in Early Harvest 7, an annual collection of stories and poems by young Australian writers and professional children’s authors.

The editors were excited to have Morris’ work in the publication. But they were determined to not treat him any differently than the other 150 young writers from Australia who had also submitted their works. As with other writers, they had editorial changes to suggest – but would Morris be offended?

The editors decided to exercise their editorial independence and sent their honest feedback with suggestions to Morris. What transpired was a feisty and entertaining back and forth between Morris and his toughest critics yet. Luckily for Morris, the story made it into Early Harvest 7, which hit the stands on 10th November.

Early Harvest is an annual collection of stories, poems, quizzes and games – written and edited by children for children. The book is the end result of a publishing program run by 100 Story Building, a children’s creative space in Footscray.

Each year, 100 Story Building partners with a group of schools in areas of high need for the program. Over the first two school terms, they hold several workshops with the Year 5 and 6 students on story writing and narrative building. These include bringing professional children’s authors to the schools to talk about their craft with the children.

Next, they select a group of 13 to 15 children to act as editors of the annual publication. The editors have heavy responsibilities. They decide the theme, call for submissions, select the stories, commission the cover art and the illustrations, and put the publication together. They are mentored by publishing professionals who sit in on their weekly editorial meets throughout Term 3.

This year, the editors were selected from six schools in Greater Dandenong. The dynamic group of boys and girls chose ‘Dreams’ as the theme. They called out for stories by students across different Melbourne schools – including their own. They wanted stories about exciting, fantastic, nightmarish and aspirational dreams. Their only condition was that any story that ended with ‘…and then they woke up and realised it was a dream’ would be rejected outright!

‘I love amazing stories written by children the same age as us. Some of them are better than
the professionals’

Prepare yourself to meet a sell-out Rockstar being chased across alternate dimensions by the Police of the Universe, BFF’s facing their biggest fears, multiple volcanoes, a dream gobbling monster, wereverines with knife-like claws, and a very fancy moustache.

There is something inspiring for children to read stories written by other children, the same age as them.

‘If your audience is kids, you should be asking children to read your book first!

Eleven-year-old Ciara L says, ‘The stories really inspired me to write my own stories.’

Another 11-year-old reader of the book, Kirsteen, says, ‘I love amazing stories written by children the same age as us. Some of them are better than the professionals’!’

That’s a hell of an admission, given that the authors who have contributed to the publication in the past include Andy Griffiths, Sally Rippin, Terry Denton, Shaun Tan, Alice Pung, Sherryl Clark, Jen Breach, Jane Goodwin and more.

Perhaps, the key lies in the young editors acting as gatekeepers for content that children would love.

As Oskar K, one of the editors of Early Harvest 7, confidently states, ‘If your audience is kids, you should be asking children to read your book first! We can give great feedback and make it better!’ Oskar said he felt empowered by the process, like his opinions and feedback mattered!

Early Harvest 7 is available for sale at Readings Kids in Carlton.

It can also be purchased online at 100storybuilding.org.au.

All profits from sales of Early Harvest go back to 100 Story Building, a not-for-profit organisation, to run free literacy programs for children.