I am deliriously grateful for the educators (teachers and librarians, aides and paras) who care so much about reading and young readers that they ventured out on a cold February Saturday morning in Minnesota to talk with 26 authors and illustrators and 5 stellar booktalkers. It is a COMMUNITY of people who LOVE BOOKS and understand that if children grow to love books (stories and true books) their lives will be infinitely better. These are dedicated people. They listened carefully. They talked with new friends and old friends about books, books, and more books. Those Books for Breakfast feelings are keeping me warm! [Thanks to Debra Frasier for permission to use this photo.]
Gertrude Chandler Warner started writing when she was five years old, in 1895. She wrote The Box-Car Children when she was sick at home, recovering from bronchitis. She wrote a book she wanted to read, believing she would like to live in a caboose. That first Box-Car Children book was published in 1924. Forty years later, I would find it in my elementary school library. That story began a lifelong love of mysteries. They are my go-to stress-relievers, a place for me to get lost in a story. I particularly like a series of mysteries—because I can inhabit that world for a longer period of time. The detectives become memorable people I know well. Warner wrote eighteen books in her series about the Box-Car children. She wrote that first book nearly 100 years ago … and it persists. You can visit her childhood home in Putnam, Connecticut, and tour the Box-Car Children Museum across the street, housed in—what else?—a railroad freight car.
I will forever be grateful to Lorraine Livingston, my professor at Augsburg College, who taught Shakespeare: “Study of ten or twelve major plays, comedies, histories, tragedies with attention to the development of Shakespeare’s dramatic and poetic art. Additional plays assigned for reading and analysis.” The papers were demanding. The final was brutal. I loved every minute of that class. Because of her teaching and meticulous attention to details, I continue to read everything about and by Shakespeare to this day. Such a gift. Did you have a particular teacher who left a lasting gift with you?
I am of two minds about awards. For every award that is given, another book or film or illustrator of equally fine accomplishment goes unrewarded. I always want to stand up, raise my hand, and say, “Yes, but …” When the choices that are made by a committee draw attention to something I don’t want people to miss … I am delighted, of course. Today I am grateful that the Robert F. Sibert Award committee of American Library Services to Children shone their light on two very fine books by authors I am honored to call friends.
In 1966, a television show set in Outer Space debuted on Thursday nights. I was twelve. My mother wouldn’t let me watch the show. But I was already reading everything I could find about “outer space.” The show was irresistible for me. When reruns ran during the day, this latchkey kid watched every episode. I read books set within the Star Trek universe and I continued to learn in real-time about the space program, ongoing exploration, and the courageous adventurers who set off into the cosmos. That TV show and its subsequent iterations are a constant thread for me, a connection to story that is strong and vital. I am grateful to the new generations of writers, actors, and crew members who keep the mythology dynamic. (A new season of Star Trek Discovery began last night—it’s on my mind.)
In my early teens, I chanced upon a copy of Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, when I was rummaging through the shelves of an antiques shop. I was immediately besotted with the illustrations. I purchased the book, went to the library to discover what I could about Mr. Wyeth, learned that he was a student of Howard Pyle’s (another artist I admire), and I was hooked. I have continued to learn everything about him and the family of artists he created.
In The New York Times, Adam Gopnik writes, “But in fact his genius lay in making his pictures much less dramatic than pictures like this had ever been before—his gift was for slowing down and sobering up book illustration so that it took on some of the gravity that had in the past belonged only to high art.”
In the same article, Gopnik quotes, “In 1908, after even more commercial success as a cowpunching illustrator of westerns, he retreated into a house on a hill overlooking Chadds Ford and announced that ‘painting and illustration cannot be mixed—one cannot merge from one into the other.”’ Intrigued, I set about learning as much as I could about illustration. My forward path was paving itself before me.
I am grateful for the lasting fascination sparked by the illustrations and paintings of N.C. Wyeth.
It is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday. He was a persistent advocate for a more just and humane life, an inspiration for all of us.
I am grateful for our book club that formed shortly after November 2016 with the intention of better understanding the people (and the politics) beyond our daily sphere. I have read books I know I would not have read otherwise so I could take part in discussions I would not have undertaken were it not for the caring of the people in this group. Thanks to each of you for this opportunity for growth and better understanding.
When I was in school, I chose classes in reading, writing, and art before any others. Only when I couldn’t avoid a science or math class did I learn something about astronomy or algebra. If I could roll back time, I would make difference choices. I enjoy reading books and articles about science. For Christmas this year, I’m grateful that a good friend gave us A Year with Nature: an Almanac by Marty Crump (University of Chicago Press, 2018). Steve and I have taken to reading aloud one short entry after meditating each day. So far we’ve learned about hunting salamanders along the Amazon, the genetic discoveries that identified Huntington’s chorea, and the importance of horseshoe crab blood to testing vaccines. The author’s entries invite further exploration. It’s a delightful way to learn.
Gratitude Journal Day #45: Maud Hart Lovelace wrote the Betsy-Tacy series and Emily of Deep Valley, books I read over and over again after my elementary school librarian placed them in my hands. But Maud also wrote historical fiction for adults, sometimes with her husband Delos W. Lovelace. They are based on research at the Minnesota Historical Society. I find them fascinating … a wondrous connection to the past. Of writing with her husband, Maud wrote, “As was usual in our collaborations, I did the research and Delos did most of the plotting. We shared the writing… amicably, too.” I am grateful to the people and publishers who are dedicated to making these books available many decades after they were written.
This photo is the background for my computer screen. You may recognize it as the main reading room at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. For me, it represents my dreams, goals, and ambitions. Reality and fantasy. Truth and fiction. The infinite possibility of discovery. I am grateful to the people who established this place that safeguards our knowledge and to those who carry on that mission. Do you follow them on Facebook? Something wonderful to behold each and every day.