Tuesday, October 26, 2010
My book's birthday wish
(Its first birthday, as a matter of fact, so technically there should be only one candle on that cake. Hopefully, when it reaches that many candles, it will still be in print!)
Something near and dear to me is now making its way in the world, and I'm reflecting on the many wonderful influences that got it there.
When I was a middle grade kid, I spent countless happy hours in my parents' bedroom closet, hiding from the daily drama, sprawled on my stomach, reading middle grade books. I visited Oz more times than I can remember, and Narnia, and Middle Earth. I made friends with Martha, Jane, Mark, and Katharine in Half Magic, and Eliza, Jack, Roger, and Ann in The Time Garden. I foiled a Hanoverian plot with Dido Twite and Simon the painter. I learned that a tesseract was a fold in space used by time travelers.
What made me happy yesterday was reading Danny the Champion of the World. I enjoyed it as much as I would have when I was ten years old. Am I eternally juvenile? Maybe so, but there's a better explanation: I'm just as much of a person as I was then, and middle grade books are about people.
Sometimes when I tell people about The Boy Who Howled, I get the feeling they think it's a lesser accomplishment to have written a children's book than an adult thriller or even a young adult romance. These people have forgotten that they've always been people, even when they were little. So it's time I made a blanket statement. Every great writer, without exception, was turned on to reading and writing by a book he or she loved as a middle grade kid. That would include all the authors on the New York Times bestseller lists.
Which makes middle grade the most important genre. (With every blanket statement comes a blanket conclusion!)
This is my birthday wish, before I blow out the candle. I want everyone who's starting a family to remember this:
Read to your kids. Take them to the library. Let them pick out their own books. And be glad that they're people, like you!