Dear Authors of Outstanding Children’s Books,
I’ve read a lot in my life. I remember (or remember being told) that I came home the first day of Year One and was disgusted because it was just like preschool. ‘We didn’t even learn to read!‘ five-year-old me exclaimed.
But once I did learn to read, I was hooked. I devoured the home reading books from school. I read all the books in the bookshelf, whether or not they belonged to me (except Trixie Beldon. Never really got into them) and asked for more for birthday and Christmas. At high school, I would read our English class novel within the first week and then beg friends in other classes to lend me theirs. I remember my mother throwing up her arms in frustration at sixteen-year-old me, when, on the morning I was due to travel overseas for six weeks, I was sat at the kitchen table trying to finish Tandia so that I didn’t have to take it on the plane (I only had 30 pages or so, and I wanted to be able to leave it behind so that I could take another book. Space was at a premium in those pre-Kindle days).
Now, though, I despair at how little I read, because I know that to be a good writer, one should also be a good reader. I mean, of course I read, but most of that is online and it’s news or blogs and the occasional story. I don’t really enjoy reading for a long time on screen, especially since I’m often looking at a screen for my work–where I am reading stories, it’s true, so in that sense, I should count myself lucky! However, I really would like to read actual paper books, for pleasure. And I have a lot of books! Even with our painful book purge before we moved two years ago, we still brought a lot of books with us, and we’ve gained some since. There is no shortage of books I could be reading, so why don’t I read?
It’s time, and it’s focus. I like to read in bed, but by the time I get to bed, most nights, I’m so tired that I can barely focus, let alone concentrate on words on the page. And during the day, I’m either busy with work or I need to focus on the needs of our Offspring. You could argue that I should just sit down with a book when they’re happily playing or eating something, but the trouble is, when I read, I am completely submerged in the book. To the point that I am unaware of what’s going on around me. An example of this is when I was at uni, and decided to catch the bus to the library. I took the novel I was reading and my study books, sat down at the bus stop, and began to read while I waited.
I looked up when my bus drove past without stopping. Of course it hadn’t stopped. I hadn’t stood up to hail it. I sighed and went back to reading my book. I didn’t have a lecture to get to, so I could afford to get the next bus. Which also trundled past, twenty minutes later, when I was again so deeply immersed in my book that I had failed to hear it approach.
After that, I put my book away. It was obvious I couldn’t be trusted to wait for the bus and read at the same time. So you can imagine how dangerous it might be, if I were supposed to be caring for our Offspring while also reading.
And that makes me a bit sad, because even when I make time for reading, I don’t have the opportunity to really sink into a book, the way I used to, and this is why well-written children’s books are so very precious to me. Most of the time, children’s literature is the only literature I read, and as I’ve pointed out before, there are a lot of awful, awful children’s books. Perhaps that makes the good books shine even brighter, when one finds them.
So I would hereby like to take a moment and highlight some of my favourite children’s books, which have been so well-written as to make me laugh or hold back tears, because it truly is these books which are keeping thirty-nine-year-old me sane, and they’re helping me to remember just how important it is to choose the words, and their order, because language is FUN and we should be playing with it.
So to you, some of my favourite wordsmiths:
Rudie Nudie – Emma Quay
I Want My Hat Back – Jon Klassen
Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book – Julia Donaldson
The Dark – Lemony Snicket
Banjo and Ruby Red – Libby Gleeson
Isabella’s Garden – Glenda Millard
Where The Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
Lost and Found – Oliver Jeffers
How to Heal a Broken Wing – Bob Graham
Scattercat – Lynley Dodd
Princess Smartypants – Babette Cole
Baby Bird’s Blankie – Margaret Wild
Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School – David Mackintosh
Little Elephants – Graeme Base
Where is the Green Sheep? – Mem Fox
Josephine Wants to Dance – Jackie French
…I say thank you. Not only do I love reading your books to my children, but I love that their love of story is sparked by your books. I ferventy hope those of you who can do so, continue to write.