That Ain’t Me

If you asked someone to describe a children’s author, what would they say? I always pictured some nice old lady in a flowered dress with a shawl wrapped around her shoulders, sipping tea while sitting in her garden.

Then there’s me.

Old blue jeans. Torn sneakers. Snake cuff bracelet. Guzzling coffee. Smoking the occasional cigar.

Yep.

My husband says I look beautiful in a dress but I seldom wear them. Maybe all those years in a wool Catholic school uniform turned me off dresses for good.

I can do girlie. Sometimes I wear pink. I even have butterfly earrings, but I prefer the daggers with snakes wrapped around them.

Is this the kind of person you want writing for your children? What can a woman who grew up in the city under tough circumstances, a woman with a sometimes unfortunate vocabulary, possibly have to say to a child that would be even remotely acceptable in their vulnerable and  (hopefully) innocent world?

Lots, actually.

As a child, escaping reality is something I tried to do every day. I seldom bothered with stories that took place in the city. I wanted my make believe to take place in settings that were unfamiliar to me, in places that were nothing like home. I particularly hated picture books in which the pictures were drawn so realistically that they might as well have used photographs instead of illustrations. My favorite picture book was (and is) Alexander and the Magic Mouse, written by Martha Sanders and brilliantly illustrated by Philippe Fix. It was published in 1969, so I was 6 years old when I first laid eyes on it. I found a used copy on Amazon a few years ago and count it among my most treasured possessions. The Dr. Seuss books are probably the most inventive, fun, unapologetically outrageous stories ever written. The brazen use of made-up words makes my heart smile. I was able to read and write before I entered kindergarten, and I credit the Dr. Seuss books for that.

That’s what I want to give children. Make believe. Good triumphing over evil. Silly rhymes. A love for words. No dead pets. No dead grandparents. No natural disasters. No sex. They can get that crap on CNN, 24/7, so I think it’s more important than ever before to give kids a place to go that’s green, gentle, funny, sweet, or brave. Scary is OK, as long as it ends safely.

Those publishers who feel the need to cut that childhood innocence short under the guise of helping kids deal with reality are far too full of themselves to be in the business. A frightened child doesn’t need more of what scared her in the first place. I know.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Dawne Webber
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 19:33:19

    So true. We are making our children grow up much too quickly. I admit I wouldn’t picture you with a snake bracelet 😉

    Reply

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