First, over at Kirkus Reviews, Julie Danielson interviews author Kate Banks about her new book City Cat (which eventually will make its way onto my blog) but also about the picture book world in general. I resonated deeply with what Kate has to say about children’s need for quiet and space to reflect, versus the structural changes in the brain we are seeing as a result of plugging kids into technology.
Here’s an excerpt:
Another thing that has changed is the mindset of readers, whose brains are literally being rewired by technology and the media. In my work as a therapist, I am well aware of the neuroscience behind this. A short time ago, an editor commented that a manuscript I’d submitted was too quiet for today’s market. This remark concerned me, because children need quiet, reflective books, as well as fast-paced, action-packed stories, to grow into balanced teenagers and adults with healthy neuropathways and good coping skills.
And I believe writers, educators and publishers have not only a golden opportunity but also a responsibility to influence children’s development in positive ways, something that is increasingly more difficult in a market-based industry where the bottom line overrides all.
Second, did you know that November is National Picture Book Month? Well, it is. Over at picturebookmonth.com they are celebrating it big time with an author a day telling why s/he thinks picture books are important. Dianne Aston, whose lovely book An Egg is Quiet I reviewed here, wrote her response a few days ago. I found it fascinating. She says:
Recently, I was speaking at an elementary school, focusing on my non-fiction science series with Chronicle Books. After one presentation, two teachers called me aside privately. One said, “We just wanted to know if there was some traumatic event in your childhood that made you decide to write about nature.” I was taken aback. I’d never thought about why I write about eggs, seeds, rocks, butterflies, and more. Reaching back into early memories, I realized I began writing poems about nature at the age of nine, when my parents were divorcing. To a child, the break-up of a family tears at the heart and is often impossible to understand. It dawned on me that I began writing about nature because, in a world that often makes no sense at all, nature does. There is a perfect order and incomparable beauty in nature that’s soul-soothing. Nature is our most benevolent, welcoming, inspiring teacher. And that’s exactly what those two teachers, in the midst of their own personal tragedies, hoped I’d say. I thank them for eliciting an epiphany. It’s my hope that children will find inspiration and comfort in my books.
Finally, there’s a speech by Neil Gaiman from about a month back about the immense power of libraries, reading, and daydreaming. Be still my heart. Here’s a little sample:
Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.
See you tomorrow with some poetry, and Monday I have a list of Thanksgiving titles so you can grab something in time for the-holiday-that-stores-forgot.