“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question many children hear and one which, as far as I can remember at least, conjured up fantastical ideas of exotic jobs and reveries of a rose-tinted future. From astronaut to gymnast to vet, I imagined myself doing anything and everything, but, of course, only the good parts of the job. Becoming an astronaut without needing to understand physics; gymnastics without the strenuous diet and exercise regimes; and vet without the need to examine scary looking dogs.
Sean the Actor is the third book in Mairi McLellan clever series in which she turns this traditional question on its head and asks instead, from a child’s perspective, “What do the grown-ups do?”
Told from the point of view of two girls living in the Highlands of Scotland, this book has McLellan’s young characters finding out about the life of an actor. After briefly introducing her characters – which makes Sean the Actor a stand-alone read as well as part of the series – the children’s task of “investigating grown-up jobs” is carried out by means of an interview in which the two girls ask actor Sean questions about his job, ranging from “how do you become and actor?” to “if there are lots of cameras, how do you know which one to look at?”
The questions are well thought out and, importantly, written as if a child could be asking them; read like a genuine conversation and followed through smoothly; and providing a good all-round introduction to what an actor does.
McLellan’s eye for detail is also evident in Sean’s answers which are again realistically phrased, and manage to strike the balance between addressing the children at their level without patronising them (and therefore her readers). Importantly, both the good and bad points of being an actor are addressed, giving readers a balanced account and lending the book great educational value. It also makes use of photographs rather than illustrations throughout, which works well as they emphasise the book’s factual nature, as well as really bringing the story to life. Yet, despite being educational, McLellan manages to retain a sense of humour throughout the book, making it enjoyable and easy to read as well as informative.
Sean the Actor is therefore a valuable addition both to Mairi McLellan’s well thought-out series, and to children’s non-fiction writing in general, providing an entertaining and educational guide to the life and career path of an actor. One thing’s for certain; if this book is anything to go by, I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.