Daily Archives: July 11, 2008

About That Speech

I urge you all to get your hands on the July/August 2008 Horn Book Magazine in order to read for yourself Laura Amy Schlitz’s Newbery speech. While seeing Laura perform it was magical, I’m happy to say that it also reads beautifully on the pages of the magazine. And editor Mary Lee Donovan’s profile is absolutely wonderful too, a dialogue complete with footnotes, a clever reference to those in the winning book itself.

And I really urge those who read Marc Aronson’s thoughts about the speech to read it for yourselves especially if you are planning on weighing in on the issue as Colleen Mondor suggests you do. “Facts are necessary, facts are useful, facts are fascinating. But stories enlarge our lives.” said Laura. “They awaken us to color and depth and pattern. They help us make sense of a random world.”

I recently read Laura’s biography, The Hero Schliemann: The Dreamer who Dug for Troy. What fascinated Laura and caused her to research and write Schliemann’s story was the lack of clarity — that some of the facts (even in the man’s own diary) were possibly, nay likely, fabricated, made-up. The fact of this likely fabrication of facts fascinates me too, I can tell you. It is interesting. And interesting is the key word. In her speech, Laura described her young listeners’ preference for an interesting story over the true one. And then how she overheard them as, true story forgotten, they passed on the interesting one. The one about the librarian and the bear. (Interested? Find a copy of the July/August Horn Book pronto!)

Trails of fact and story, of truth and fiction. Dorothy Bradford, of the Mayflower, killed herself. Fact? Fiction? Which do you want? The true story or the interesting story? Poor woman, it is the interesting one that continues today to be thought of as true. Annoyed as I am by this I nonetheless believe that we cannot totally control facts when they go out into the world. Whether it is Laura telling me an interesting story or me creating one of my own from the true story — either way, imaginative thinking is what is going on.

For whether we read a story that someone made for us, a true one or an interesting one, or take the facts to create a story for ourselves — either way we are using our imaginations to create a narrative. These narratives can be huge — say the nation-building of 18th century America or small — say the examination of a particular individual and his or her contribution to life on this planet. Either way, the facts of these bits of history are made into narratives, to make them come alive, fiction or fact — not sure the difference, the dichotomy, the polarization is as great as some make it to be.

I’m interested always in imaginative thinking. To do history you have to be able to place yourself, imagine yourself, empathize, and otherwise think about a past time, a time that you have not experienced. Similarly, to enjoy a work of fiction you have to buy into it, be able to imagine yourself into that setting that you have not experienced. As I continue to think about children, their learning, their thinking, and their interaction with books I’ll continue to think about the complexity of our imaginations and ways of engaging with art, with truth, with facts, with story.



Filed under History, Newbery

Three Poems from J. Patrick Lewis

These three surprises came the other day from poet J. Patrick Lewis. What a lovely unexpected treat! Thanks so much, Pat!

July 10, 2008
For Monica

Road Block

I saw a bookworm in a book.
The bookworm said to me,

“Long have I lived these many years
On page 6, paragraph 3.”

I said, “Why don’t you move along?
There’s so much more ahead.”

“The author mistook its for it’s-
That’s where I stopped,” she said.

* *

Books Discover Children

Yes, children do discover books,
But books find children on their own,
And then can’t wait to get their hooks
In kids who think they’re all alone.

For instance, GOODNIGHT MOON knows why
That girl is thinking to herself,
How can I ever say good-bye….
When Rabbit pulls her to the shelf.

And FROG AND TOAD hops to the child
Who almost lost his closest friend:
The only way pain’s reconciled
Is by the letter that you send.

When CHARLOTTE’S WEB bumps into you-
A girl who’s fastened to a farm-
The simple life you thought you knew
Is spelled out in a spider’s charm.

As children hurry to the page,
The picture page talks back by turns,
Capturing kids of every age
For whom imagination burns.

* *

Library Lady

If you’re looking for good fiction,
Welcome to my jurisdiction!
I’m the Dewey Decimal Guard,
Who can find the perfect story,
Humor (witty), horror (gory),
Novels (great), adventure (glory)….
Let me see your library card.

No, there’s nothing’s more exciting
For a kid who’s reading writing
Than to fricassee a mind,
‘Cause a book is like an oven-
What it’s cookin’ is book lovin’.
Set the temperature then shove in
Every brain cell you can find.

* *


Filed under Poetry