Don't baptize a cat and other advice from children

SINGAPORE Wed Nov 18, 2009 2:47am EST

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - After writing two emotional books about cancer and a girl who survived horrific accidents, author Sally Collings needed a break, so she asked children for their advice.

The result is the hilarious, often poignant "The World According to Children: a child's eye view of life, love and chocolate cake," a collection of musings on life that ranges from the worst thing about being an adult to what happens when we die.

"I like the idea of a book that's in the words of kids, words that are not filtered by parents," Collings, who lives in Brisbane, Australia with her two daughters, told Reuters about the book that was published earlier this month.

"I thought it was a real heartwarmer, and it makes you laugh because it's not just funny, it's also so true."

Collings' previous offerings have been heart-wrenching as well as inspirational: "Sophie's Journey" tells the story of Sophie Delezio, who lost both feet, some fingers and her right ear -- as well as suffering serious burns to most of her body -- when a car crashed into her daycare center in December 2003.

Delezio also survived being hit by a car two years, suffering near-fatal injuries, and the book traces her path through the words of friends, family, hospital staff and supporters.

Then, reeling from the death of her mother from cancer, Collings tried to see if there was an upside to the disease after reading that two out of three cancer survivors and their family considered something good had come out of the experience.

From that emerged "Positive," a collection of the stories of various cancer survivors and their families.

"I got to the end of those two books, and I thought I can't go through there again. I needed pure joy," Collings said. "I used to joke that I want to write a book about fluffy kittens, but couldn't find an angle on fluffy kittens."

IF YOU WANT A KITTEN...

For "The World According to Kids," Collings started by asking all the people she knew who had kids to tell her their funniest comments, but quickly realized that coming from adult mouths, they weren't very funny.

So she put together a questionnaire and went around several kindergartens and schools, asking children herself, and the book was collated from the wisdom of about 200 kids.

"The kids got a complete kick out of being asked about love, dinosaurs and what the sun is made of," she said.

"They were thrilled to be asked their perspective, as it's not very often that people ask their opinion about things."

The book is full of gems such as the following advice from 15-year-old Naomi: "If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a horse"; 6-year-old Alexa: "I need to put shorts on for playing with the boys because boys are very runny"; 9-year-old Armir: "You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk"; and 8-year-old Eileen: "Never try to baptize a cat."

Asked why God made mothers, second-graders' answers ranged from "she's the only one who knows where the sticky tape is" to "to help us out when we were getting born."

Collings' daughters -- aged 4 and 6 -- contributed just one quote in the whole book. "A lot of what they say is unprintable or I forget it about a week later," she joked.

Although the book is not really aimed at children, Collings said she was surprised at how much children love it, because it ultimately empowers them.

"I thought it would be just for mums or grans, but the young ones want to sleep with it and those aged 6 and over think everything makes perfect sense," she added.

"I guess children love the idea that it's their words, not someone talking to them or about them. It's a reminder that we sometimes forget to listen to kids."

(Editing by Alex Richardson)