So I just opened up the Sunday New York Times Magazine, started leafing through it, and suddenly stopped dead. There’s a full-page photograph of someone I know — none other than Gregory Maguire, or “Mr. Wicked” as the article is titled. How very, very cool!
I first got to know Gregory through his adult fairy tale books; I’m partial to Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror Mirror, filled as they are with rich period atmosphere and detail, lovely sentences, and completely original reworkings of two familiar tales. And then I stumbled across his children’s book Seven Spiders Spinning, and read it aloud to my class. The first of The Hamlet Chronicles, it is a witty and fun middle-grade book — the following six in the series are too.
In 1999 I began attending the summer institutes of Children’s Literature New England and got to know Gregory firsthand. He, Barbara Harrison, and a host of luminaries of the children’s book world produced some of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had, but it was Gregory’s impish intelligence, wit, charm, and eye for detail that made those weeks so truly unforgettable. And when Gregory invited me to speak at one two years ago I got a taste of his prodigious knowledge of children’s literature close-up as we emailed back and forth about my speech.
Do seek out his children’s books, his writing on children’s literature, and if you get a chance to hear him speak —- go, go, go! Here are a few of his speeches online, but they don’t do justice to his delivery — the man is also a wonderful performer.
* I spoke at this same conference and you can read my more pedantic speech here.