Many of the books we read and lectures we attend are enjoyed while focusing on improving our craft. Even the books we read for pleasure often get the critical treatment; I find myself often noting a particularly good -or bad – technique or point of craft. Sometimes, though, you need to revel in your love of literature – especially children’s literature – for its own sake.
Recently, I read Jacqueline Kelly’s The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. A great review in Booklist led me to add it to my ever-growing reading list a couple years ago. (It expands and contracts much like many folks’ waistlines.) I finally borrowed it from the New York Public Library and got around to enjoying it. As I read, I found myself engrossed. Like the first time reading Alcott’s Little Women or L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, I allowed myself to become lost in Callie Vee’s story, bewitched and completely oblivious to the magic behind the curtain.
Likewise, I finally got around to attending the NYPL Children’s Literary Salon. A wonderful event, it takes place on the first or second Saturday of each month at the home of Patience & Fortitude and is moderated by the estimable Betsy Bird, Youth Materials Specialist of the New York Public Library. (I’ll never understand why we can’t just remain librarians.) This month’s topic was “From Readers to Leaders: Encouraging Ethical Behavior Through Children’s Books.” Despite the rather upright title, the panel discussion by presenters Stuart Murphy and Janet Wong was lively, entertaining, and informative. The audience was a mix of folks – writers, librarians, and people who just love kid lit.
It occurred to me afterwards, that with the exception of my conversation with a fellow writer, my attention was focused solely on the discussion itself. Not how I could apply the information to my own writing (though I’m sure I will) nor how their positions reflected the kid lit market – I simply enjoyed hearing both Stuart and Janet read from their works and speak about their experiences. (I also really enjoyed the cart full of ARC’s going begging. Never turn down a free book.) My musings during the presentation were mainly about ordering copies of their books for the library at which I volunteer, a refreshing change from taking notes and generally acting as if I’m back in school.
I’m eagerly anticipating February’s salon. I’m always anticipating getting lost in my next book. But this time,if I’m not lost to the world, I think I’ll skip it. Just close the book and put it aside. Then pick up one that makes me read like a kid again.