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