Ron Charles Reviews “This Time They Hear You”

Ron Charles, Book Critic at The Washington Post, recently delivered this heartwarming review of “This Time They Hear You,” 826DC’s new collection of science-inspired fairytales by local third-grade authors…


I don’t get to review many children’s books—and I rarely get to review a book so full of whimsy and adventure, peril and delight.

Again and again, in “This Time They Hear You,” we encounter compact little stories that break all the rules and suggest what the new rules should and can be!

Right off the bat, so to speak, in “Mickey Bear and the Natu Dragon,” a baseball game is disrupted by a scaly dragon who swoops in and steals the ball. What’s next? A fight? A few bears scorched? No, nothing like that.

Instead, we learn, “Mickey Bear and his brother started being friends with the dragon because he was sharing the ball and being nice.” [14]

On its surface, the fantastical world of fairy tales seems removed from our own experience, but if you listen to these 42 stories, you can hear the abiding concerns of these young writers. Bullying is obviously a major issue for them—It shows up in many of these tales, as it does in our city and our nation. And if bullying is hatred in action, these fairy tales dare to imagine that action interrupted, contained, even reversed. They may be fairy tales, but that’s no fantasy—that’s the truth.

In these stories, we see that Plants and Camels can be friends! In the “Total Drama-Rama,” flowers that once intimidated each other learn to get along. [38] In a story by Aleyah Garcia-Flores, an attentive father leads his mean son to an act of kindness. In “The Best Garfield Runaway,” three antagonists “called a truce so they could be friends. They changed their minds about each other because they all looked cool, liked cool things, and had cool hair.” [57]

Some of these stories, like a very frank piece called simply “Bullies,” address the problem with bracing realism and conclude with clear, tough advice: “Never give up when a bully does something to you.”

Others look back on bullying in the rearview mirror, like a story optimistically called, “The Problem That Has Been Solved.” [66]

But don’t imagine that these 56 young authors are concerned only with their own interpersonal conflicts.

In one story after another, like “The Greedy Lumberjack,” [78] we find a deep and abiding awareness of our interaction with the natural world. And it’s a connection conveyed in the most magical way: In these fairytales, people and plants talk to each other, and the boundary between humanity and flora is thin and porous. In a story called “The Potion,” Angel Torres writes, “As a human, Jack wanted to be a plant.” [55] In a story by Brooklyn DeChabert, we’re told, “Sofia was like a regular old person, but she was a plant, too.” [52]

These writers have used the elements of fantasy to capture the very real truth that we are intimately connected to the plants and trees that sustain us.

And to have these tales so wondrously illustrated by 19 professional artists is a fairy tale come true.

So listen closely to what these young people are telling us in “This Time They Hear You.” They deserve to be heard. 


Interested in reading this wonderful book? “This Time They Hear You” is available for purchase here. All sales help 826DC write with more young authors around the District!