True Confessions

kids bookshelf1

When I wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep, I reach for one of my oldest friends, a children's book. I have not packed away all the books from my childhood or my children's childhoods. I keep them in a book case not far from the bedroom door. I also read newer children's books, of course, as well as a nearly constant diet of literary fiction and nonfiction from the shifting pile next to the bed. But when I wake up at two or three in the morning and start to worry about all the things I have to do, and then worry even more about how tired I will be when I get up in the morning to try to actually do them all, I reach for a book where I already know the ending, and I know the cover and the illustrations as well as my favorite T shirt. Sometimes I just skip to my favorite chapter. It's comfort reading, and it has a more lasting effect than comfort food. I am doing something that often happens in some of my favorite children's books, finding a secret entrance to another time and place. But there's something more than escapism--these books have a deeply grounding solidity to them. They are the first books I stayed up late to finish when I was a child, or missed a stop on the bus because I was so caught up in Stuart Little trapped on the garbage barge, Laura in the great plains, Anne of Green Gables, the Borrowers, Pippi, Harriet, Reepicheep, Lad a Dog, Lightfoot the Deer and Whitefoot the Woodmouse. Those were books of my childhood, and some of them became the books of my own children's childhoods. My daughters, in turn, brought me to Harry Potter, and Lyra in the Golden Compass, Meggie in Inkheart and many others. Loyal friends who are still there for me in the middle of the night when the whole house is fast asleep and I feel like I will never sleep again. I've been thinking a lot about the books we grow up with now that I have written a book for children for the very first time. One thing I've been asked is was it "easier" or "harder" to write a book for children, and the answer is neither. It is as hard and easy as any book I've written, but there has been a lot of joy around the creation of this book and these characters. Another question I've been asked is whether I had to read a lot of children's books in order to prepare to write one. The truth is, I have never stopped reading them, and I never will.

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