Great Mistakes Are The Ones You Learn From

Great Mistakes Are The Ones You Learn From

Posted on August 17 by Sylvia McNicoll in Kids
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Besides all the mistakes I make, what I most have in common with my character Stephen Noble in The Artsy Mistake Mystery is that I walk dogs a lot. Usually it’s my Jackapoo Mortie that I stroll with between the scenes that I write, but sometimes it’s my granddog Worf and any guest dogs, like Holly the Bichonpoo. I walk through our neighbourhood, which means I know the dogs and their owners in my community. At least I know the dogs’ names—Spike, Diesel, Akita, Princess, Bailey, Niko etc. —what they like to eat and whether they like to play. I also know there’s a big orange attack cat that hides in a hedge on a certain street. Dog owners warn each other about stuff like that. When a dog takes off on an owner or goes missing, we’re all on the alert.

Dog walkers notice a lot when they’re out there, making them excellent detectives in neighbourhood mysteries:  a strange truck parked somewhere it shouldn’t be, someone stealing some wooden fish from a fence—just like in The Artsy Mistake Mystery, I actually saw a couple stealing Stream of Dream fish from the fence around a public park. Dog owners exchange stories about the little dog rescued from a coyote by a big dog, or why the police cars are parked at the end of the street.

These are all things that kids walking to school or the park or their friends’ houses can notice too. I’m sure many of the students at Brant Hills School behind our house know Mortie’s name as well as many other dogs’ names.

There are many kinds of neighbourhood mysteries for them to solve. For example, when I walked my grandson Hunter to school several years ago, we noticed a CAT MISSING poster. The older couple next door said their indoor cat bolted when a delivery man showed up. They put food out on their porch but weeks went by with no sight of Blackie. We feared the kitty might have met a coyote.

Then Hunter spotted some movement in the long wooden box at the side of our house when we strolled by with Mortie. It was a black cat. How excited we all were when the owners confirmed yes, it was their Blackie. We formed a circle around the box in order to capture the spooked kitty who refused to come out. Using his own suggestion, Hunter tipped the box ever so gently and the cat sprang into his delighted owner’s arms.

You can guess how relieved and happy the owners were. But the cat finder, the pet detective, the hero, Hunter, beamed for days also.

A mistake to forget to block Blackie’s escape route. But thankfully resolved in time by a ten-year-old.

Making observations, discovering problems, finding solutions if we’re solving mysteries or even just fixing up our errors, all these things can be empowering.  Not just for me or Hunter or Stephen Noble and Renée Kobai, but for the young readers of The Artsy Mistake Mystery and all The Great Mistake Mysteries as they stroll through the pages with us. Happy walking, mistake making…and reading!

Sylvia McNicoll

Posted by Kendra on April 12, 2016
Sylvia McNicoll photo

Sylvia McNicoll

Sylvia McNicoll is the author of over thirty novels. Bringing up Beauty, her guide dog story, won the Silver Birch Award, launching her to international success. Sylvia lives in Burlington, Ontario.