Monday, May 10, 2010

Still Celebrating

Happy Children's Book Week!  Most of us are likely still recovering from Mother's Day and Teacher Appreciation Week (or, at my kids' school, teacher/parent/child appreciation -- poor teachers never get a break).   Here's a shout-out to Mr. Micklos, Mrs. Weingarten, Mr. Bennett, and Mr. Ford -- the chief reasons that I am a writer today. (And Mr. Ford, thanks for taking such good care of our family!)

I was just putting my daughter to bed and asked her, after she'd begged for yet one more story, why exactly she likes to read.  Apart from the obvious answer (stalling bedtime), she had to ponder for a bit.  Finally, "I'll have to think about it and answer that question tomorrow."  Hmm.  So much for asking the experts!  What kind of stories does she like?  "Nice stories.  Where people are nice."

Meantime, my three-year-old tonight demanded for the first time, "Put down your computer, Mommy."  And, when I was too slow to comply, he bopped me in the head with a ping pong ball.  Didn't he know I was writing a story just for him?  So much for Mother's Day!

Writing (and selling) children's books is a uniquely challenging endeavour, let's face it, because our audience and our consumers are not at all the same.  Editors are not children.  Parents are not children.  Our books must appeal to both these groups of gatekeepers before they can get into the hands of the children who will devour them (or not).

What were your favorite books of childhood?  Do you still love them?  What are your children's favorites?  How much do these categories overlap?  I like to think that I have tasteful children, but for every Jane Yolen or Carolyn Crimi that I relish reading aloud, there's some dreadful novelty book complete with finger puppets that is in equal demand. 

Do you ever secretly suspect that Henry Huggins or The Moffats could never be published today?  I love episodic books, quiet books, character studies, humor.  Apart from humor, there's not a lot of cachet in any of those categories today, is there?

What I especially love about Children's Book Week, of course, is that kids get to vote in their own version of the Newbery Awards.  Of course, their participation is still entirely dependent upon the adults who love them, and the adults who love books -- us!

Writing Workout

For those teachers among us, check out these awesome story starters!

--Jeanne Marie


Carmela Martino said...

Yes, happy Children's Book Week to all.
Jeanne Marie, thanks for sharing the link to the story starters. They may help jump-start us writers, too. I'm thinking about what happened with my "Green Basilisk Lizard egg," thanks to the great Jon Scieszka.
And how about my word verification word: "mouchead." I think I'm going to HAVE to put that one in a story. Hmm, can I use it in my lizard egg story?

Toby Speed said...

I love Children's Book Week, too, and especially the Children's Choice Awards. Thanks for a great post, Jeanne Marie.

The librarians are another group of gatekeepers. When our books are no longer in the bookstores, they can still be found in the libraries -- dogeared and well-used, we hope!

Carmela, do use your word verification in a story! I've been having fun writing poems with some that I've come across.

Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford said...

Thanks, Toby. I certainly didn't mean to leave out librarians! I can't wait until my daughter goes to elementary school in the fall so I can volunteer in the library. I don't know whether I'll get to make book recommendations, but at least I can see what the kids are reading.

Carmela, I think I'm going to try the story starter exercise, too. I've been reading Ann Whitford Paul's wonderful book about picture books, and I am raring to go!

Julie Musil said...

I loved the sweet and simple books from the past, and equally enjoy the books of today.

Michelle said...

Hi ladies! I love your blog and just gave you a blog award. :-)

Carmela Martino said...

How kind of you, Michelle. Thanks!

Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford said...

Thanks, Michelle. I love your blog, too. :)

And Julie, I agree -- I love the books from my childhood, and I also love what's being written today. However, I have to admit a certain partiality to sweet and simple.