Thursday, February 5, 2015

Children's Author and Illustrator Week: View Changing!

In a continuation of this week's celebration of Children's Author and Illustrator week I present today's blog post!

There's something incredibly powerful about being the author/illustrator of a kids book. You are a force that is molding an incredibly impressionable mind. You are offering possibilities of how to see the world to someone who is looking for them. You are shaping people.

That is not to say that adults aren't shaped the same way but they do seem to be generally more set in their ways (though things certainly happen). I firmly believe that kids books change the way that we see the world.

So I wanted to express my appreciation for some authors who helped me see the world a little bit differently.

 1. J.K. Rowling
I am imagining a chorus of 'duh's here. I could probably just write her name and leave it at that but I'm not going to.

What J.K. Rowling did for me was show me how widely books could appeal to people. Up until I read Harry Potter  I'd never really jumped on any books that were super well known. I have never considered the same books that I really loved being books that people so incredibly different from me also loved. If we liked the same books, we had to have some special kinship, we should be friends.

That is not true. This sounds like a sort of sad thing to be taught but Rowling showed me how universal literature can be and that is such a weird thing for a middle schooler to feel. That is one of the ultimate outcast periods of your life and Harry Potter offered me this chance to be connected to something and to people I would never have been otherwise.

2. Tamora Pierce
Her books were a big part of me deciding that I wanted to write. There was something about picking up Tris's Book (the first of hers I read) that stuck with me. There was something so undeniably strong about her characters but without her falling into the trap of making them invulnerable. They felt real. They were kids and not ideas.

And then I went on to read her other books and saw so much of who I wanted to be in her characters (I have an alarming amount in common with Kel. In the best way possible). They're amazing and flawed and always a little bit broken in important ways. After reading her books I wanted to write and to make someone else feel like I felt when I picked them up for the first time.

3. Graeme Base
There's something really amazing about Base's The 11th Hour that I was immediately struck by as a youngish child. I remember being so delighted by the fact that here was this book that expected me to be clever. It expected me to pay attention but without making me feel overly foolish for missing things.

The thing about Base is that there is so much going on in his beautiful, elaborate illustrations that you can see so much, spot so many of his little nudges and winks, and completely miss one of the key elements to the mystery. But when you get to the end and its solved and you find out you were wrong or only partially right you don't feel stupid because you caught so many other things.
He made me feel clever despite being wrong and there was something so empowering about that. Partially, because it's nice to feel smart and partially because it sort of indirectly taught me to look at the whole picture and to not be overwhelmed by things that are dazzling, to pay attention to what's happening in a room as a whole.

4. John Corey Whaley
It's been a while since I've had an excuse to wax poetic about my love for his books. But he made me see how I fit differently.

I have never seen so clear an image of myself in a book as I did in Whaley's Where Things Come Back. That's probably a weird thing for a 26 year old female to say about a 17 year old male character, but it's true.
Cullen and I share this weird mix of cynicism and optimism that I hadn't really been able to work out a balance for myself. It's being pessimistic about all of these things in life that seem so big and so important and often are big and important, but ultimately feeling like the world isn't such a terrible place, that overall life's not necessarily as terrible as all of its pieces.

And reading that book showed me that maybe it's not that strange. That sometimes you aren't going to find your optimism in the end of every situation and that's fine because there are other people who will.

5. Holly Black
Holly Black is one of those authors who's had a big impact on my view of writing, which is an important factor in my view of the world.

One of the first things people find out about me is that I have sisters. Four of them. I adore my sisters. My whole family, actually. And my childhood gets top-billing when it comes to crediting the person I am now. I've always known that that's important but Holly Black has this way of writing about childhood that shows how important it is.

It comes up more than once in her books and stories to never discount the things you thought and believed as a kid because kids see far more than anyone gives them credit for. It was an important highlight of something that I already saw and already believed. It's this amazing affirmation of what I thought was important to write about and I always go back to her for it.

There are so many more. And I am so so grateful to all of them, to every book I've read and every author who's taken the time to write for kids and teens. And I'm incredibly grateful that I've never become so jaded that I lose sight of how important these books are, how influential they are. I think I'm lucky to realize that even if I don't like a book it may be THE book to someone else and that I think oddly, as judgmental and terrible as kids can be, that kids are more open to that than anyone else.

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