I was born in the year of magic. Not many people can say that, but I can. When I was born on March 4, 1963, amazing things were bubbling up in the realm of children’s literature. Beloved books like Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak were published in 1963. While I have no concrete evidence to connect my devotion to children’s books to the time I was born, who’s to say otherwise? (And just so you know, Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) was born in March too–if that helps to convince you.)
The 1960s were what I consider the golden age of children’s literature. Picture books we now consider classics like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Go Dog Go by PD Eastman, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, and Norman Bridwell’s Clifford the Big Red Dog and Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban were enjoyed by parents and children for the very first time. Junior high students feasted on freshly published novels we now cherish like Island of Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
Regardless of the era in which we are born or the format in which books are produced, I hope (and believe) children’s literature will always have an honored place in childhood. At an SCBWI National conference, I heard children’s novelist Margaret Peterson Haddix talk about the difference between the books we read as children and those we read as adults. She observed that as children we devoured our books. If we loved a book, we read it over and over and over again. We memorized it, pondered on it and carried it with us, in our small hands and in our hearts.
And she’s right. As children we build a cozy fort in our hearts for the books we love. Maybe it’s because as adults, fiction is a mirror of our experiences, but for children, books are our streak-free windows. They help us see and experience things for the very first time. And to a child, that feels like magic.
I was born in the year of magic. By re-reading the stories of my younger years and creating new ones, I plan to keep my inner child happy for many year to come.
I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth. ― Ovid, Metamorphoses